Washington, Sep 29 -
(AFP) WASHINGTON -- The United States vowed Wednesday to step up pressure on Japan to end parental abductions, urging its close ally to let hundreds of foreign parents see their children.
The US House of Representatives was expected to approve a resolution urging Japan to "immediately" help resolve all cases and to give all parents access to their half-Japanese children from broken relationships.
Japan is the only major industrial country that has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention that requires the return of wrongfully held children to their countries of usual residence.
Japanese courts almost never grant custody to foreign parents, particularly fathers. Activists say that thousands of foreigners have been denied access to children held by their Japanese parents.
Speaking ahead of the House vote, Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state in charge of East Asia, said the United States has given new weight to the issue and raised it at the highest levels with Japan.
"This is a result of Japan, our closest ally in the Pacific, not signing the Hague Convention and it is a problem," Campbell testified before a House committee.
"We're going to need to see some progress on this issue," Campbell said. "I will do everything possible. I will be in Japan next week -- I will raise it with all of my Japanese interlocuters."
However, Campbell said that he saw "some signs of progress" since the left-leaning Democratic Party of Japan took office last year, ending decades of nearly uninterrupted conservative rule.
Campbell said that Katsuya Okada, until recently Japan's foreign minister and now the ruling party's number two, has understood concerns raised about child abductions.
Japanese media reports last month said that the government has decided to ratify the Hague treaty but not immediately as it needs to put its own laws into line.
Representative Christopher Smith, who spearheaded the House resolution, said that parents' patience was wearing thin as abducted children often suffered severe psychological problems.
"It is the strongest language we could have possibly put into the resolution because, frankly, time is up," Smith said.
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