April 06, 2017 10:55 PM
A Maple Grove man is asking the Trump Administration to pressure Japan to give his children back.
James Cook was in Washington D.C. Thursday fighting for his kids.
He testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. They’re investigating international treaties to return children abducted by a parent.
Cook’s wife took their four kids to Japan in 2014. He has been awarded custody, but can’t get them back.
Cook told the congressional committee he hopes Vice President Mike Pence will help when he visits Japan in late April.
“I hereby respectfully request that Vice President Mike Pence speak with these Japanese officials and ask them to have Japan meet their international obligation to comply with the Hague convention and return our children to their habitual residence in Minnesota,” he said.
“Excuses may be offered why they cannot, but I know Japan will force their return if required.”
Cook said Congressman Erik Paulsen has been supportive of his efforts.
“This is a situation no parent or child should ever have to go through, and I completely sympathize with James and his children during this trying episode,” Paulsen said in an emailed statement.
“My office and I have been exploring various channels to reunite James with his four kids and hope we can help the Cook family reach a resolution soon.”
The issue of international family abduction is complicated. And it’s something many don’t hear much about.
Cook has been working with Jane Straub from the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center to figure out how to get his children back.
The last time he saw them was 2015.
“I have two sets of twins,” he said. “I have 14-year old-boys and I have a 9-year-old boy and girl.”
Cook said his wife Hitomi Arimitsu took the children to see her family in Japan in September of 2014, then stopped communicating with him.
He showed court rulings he’s won locally and internationally, including Japan, that give him custody.
“So (in) total (I’ve) probably won 10 cases up to this point,” he said.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached Cook’s wife Hitomi Arimitsu in Japan.
She said international child abduction is not what is going on in this case. She claims she and James had an agreement she would take the children to Japan.
“I have made numerous attempts to facilitate contact between him and the children,” Arimitsu said.
“James does not take advantage of any of them. I want them to have a relationship with their father. Regardless of my disagreements with him regarding our marriage, I think it is important for him to be in their life.”
Arimitsu’s attorney said that in February a Japanese court reversed a previous order giving him custody. Cook is appealing that decision to higher court in Japan.
Japan has signed treaties that are supposed to prevent international child abduction.
But Cook said Japan has been non-compliant from the beginning.
He said custody battles in Japan are considered private, and children basically belong to the parent who has them.
“And that’s how they view children, quite honestly – as possessions,” he said. “Not as human beings, but as possessions.”
Straub said a case like Cook’s doesn’t always get the attention in should.
“You know working at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, people think (the) only people that take children are strangers,” Straub said.
“We know parent-child abductions happen. And just because that person is a parent, it doesn’t mean that that child is safe.”
Cook said he won’t give up the fight for his kids.
“It’s important to remember these are four little people,” he said. “Four human beings, four U.S. citizens. They’re literally being held hostage in a foreign land.
“And we have the power as a country to get them back.”