TOKYO, Jan 26 (Bernama) -- The Japanese government set up a task force Tuesday to examine whether to join an international convention on child custody disputes, with the French parliament set to add to international pressure for Japan to act on the issue, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.
The move came as the French Senate begins deliberations Tuesday on a resolution urging Japan to join the Hague Convention to help resolve cases in which foreign parents are prevented from seeing their children in Japan following failed marriages with Japanese nationals.
The resolution crafted by Senate member Richard Yung is expected to be adopted later Tuesday at the earliest, according to French parliamentary sources. It calls on Tokyo to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
The convention provides a procedure for the prompt return of children to their habitual country of residence when they are wrongfully removed or retained in the case of an international divorce. It also protects parental access rights.
The resolution calls on Japan to amend its legislation, saying Japanese laws do not grant joint custody to divorced parents and often restrict the visitation rights of French parents.
In Tokyo, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said Tuesday that the government has been holding discussions on the matter with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and its coalition partner, the People's New Party, to formulate the country's policy.
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama said after the first meeting of the newly launched government task force, comprising senior vice ministers and other top officials concerned, that Tokyo will consider ''from scratch'' whether to join the Hague Convention.
"At the moment we have no plans to set a date, but we don't intend to let (discussion) drag on,'' Fukuyama said when asked how long the government will need to reach a decision on the matter.
As Japan has yet to join the convention, non-Japanese parents cannot meet their children if Japanese parents take their children to Japan from the country in which the family had been living.
Of the Group of Seven major economies, only Japan has yet to ratify the convention, which currently has 83 parties.
According to Yung, most marriages between nationals of the two countries involve French men and Japanese women, and two French fathers committed suicide in the past six months after being unable to meet with their children.
The French parliamentary move follows the adoption last September of a resolution by the U.S. House of Representatives calling on Japan to immediately institute legal remedies for controversial child custody practices.
Hundreds of American parents have leveled accusations of kidnapping against their former Japanese spouses.
But some critics in Japan have raised concerns over joining the Hague Convention, saying it could endanger Japanese parents and their children who have fled from abuse by non-Japanese parents.
Last October, the ambassadors of 11 countries and the European Union in Japan met with then Justice Minister Minoru Yanagida and urged the Japanese government to join the convention.