U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Bob Corker (R-TN), and 20 of their Senate colleagues, sent a letter on November 8th to President Barack Obama calling on him to address international parental child abduction with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama during his trip to Japan this week.
Specifically, the letter asks the Administration to work with the Japanese government to reunite children abducted to Japan with their American parents. They are less interested in persuading the Japanese to sign the Hague Convention on child abduction than on reuniting as quickly as possible the abducted children with their left-behind parents.
The letter's text is HERE.
Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, East Asia & Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, was not satisfied with simply signing the letter. He issued his own press release. Webb is not one to miss an opportunity to pound on Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell for being disingenuous. Like many on Capitol Hill, Webb knows he has to keep Campbell's feet to the fire to produce results.
For now, Campbell says the Japanese Justice Ministry is a afraid of pressing for change to get the Hague signed or to do more. This is peculiar as Ministry Chiba has publicly said she was going to press on bringing Japan up to international standards on a host of issues. Diet members are also confronted daily by the complaints of their constituents negatively affected by the lack of Japanese laws for joint custody. There is a domestic movement in Japan for change. Maybe Campbell is just trying position any progress on the issue as a result his efforts.
Webb's press release moves beyond the stock introductory paragraph in the Boxer letter and adds:
For Webb, this letter builds upon efforts to help Virginia constituents whose children have been abducted to Japan. Webb, who serves as chairman of Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, also raised the issue of child abductions to Japan during Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell’s confirmation hearing this summer.
As the Senators stated in the letter, “Many parents have not seen or heard from their children in years. We cannot sit back and wait while these children grow up without one parent.”
The Senators noted that, while it is important that Japan accede to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, the administration must also work with Japan directly to resolve current cases.
Currently, Japan does not recognize international parental child abduction as a crime and is behind only Mexico and India in the number of parental child abduction cases involving American children.
It is interesting that Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), often a defender of Japan, signed the letter. Both the Chair and Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also signed.
The Senators who signed the letter are: Barbara Boxer, Bob Corker, John F. Kerry, Richard G. Lugar, Russell D. Feingold, Richard J. Durbin, Byron L. Dorgan, Dianne Feinstein, Lamar Alexander, Daniel K. Inouye, Jack Reed, Carl Levin, Sheldon Whitehouse, Mary L. Landrieu, Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley, Maria Cantwell, Jim Webb, Roland W. Burris, Amy Klobuchar, Bill Nelson, Patty Murray.