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U.S. Won’t Tolerate Loopholes in Child Abduction Treaty with Japan

U.S. Won't Tolerate Loopholes in Child Abduction Treaty with Japan

Christopher Savoie became the poster boy for international child abduction when he took back his children who had been taken to Japan illegally by his ex-wife.

As Tokyo moves to ratify the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the U.S. said Thursday that it will not accept any loopholes Japan might seek in resolving the long-running source of conflict.

Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said, “We will not rest until we see the kinds of changes that are necessary and we will certainly not abide by loopholes or other steps that will, frankly, somehow negate or water down (the agreement).”

Japanese critics of the treaty fear that it will facilitate the return of children to abusive parents, even though the treaty has a provision concerning abuse. Japanese lawmakers are considering making exceptions to the treaty if there are fears of abuse. These exceptions could be used as a loophole to return children to foreign parents, or be used to delay the return.

The U.S. is also pressing Japan to allow greater visitation rights outside of the treaty. It is customary in Japan for the parent with custody to deny the other parent visitation rights, the reason for which I have discussed previously.

One reason the U.S. may fear Japan will seek a loophole in the international treaty is rooted in the precedent Japan demonstrated in exploiting the loophole for scientific research in the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 moratorium.

I think the reason Japan seeks loopholes in international treaties has to do with the Japanese concepts of “honne” and “tatemae.” Tatemae is the facade, while honne is the reality. The tatemae often represents an ideal, while the honne continues to be carried out. The Japanese don’t consider the contradictory nature of honne and tatemae to be lying, because the tatemae is an ideal and how can an ideal be a lie? Western Japanophiles who think Japan can do no wrong usually buy into Japan’s slogans presenting the tatemae, without seeking out the honne. Having a worldview that allows this contradiction is useful in a country where privacy is virtually nonexistent. People are allowed an inner privacy by putting forward a tatemae, and most people don’t seek out the honne out of respect for the others’ inner privacy. This sometimes leads to conflicts in international forums where Japan puts forth its tatemae and keeps the honne hidden. In fact, the West insisting on Japan to say what it means and do what it says may be considered ethnocentric from the Japanese point-of-view.

Even if Japan ratifies the 1980 convention, the law will only apply to future cases of alleged child abduction, and will not be applied to the 123 cases that are currently in dispute.



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

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E-mail him: [email protected]