The European Parliament has called on Japan to take steps to prevent the parental abduction of children.

In a motion passed by an overwhelming majority by the parliament today, MEPs expressed alarm over the well-being of children abducted by parents and brought to Japan.

In a statement following the vote, members said there was an increasing number of unsolved child abduction cases where one parent is an EU national and the other Japanese.

The strongly-worded statement said: "Parliament regrets that one of the EU's strategic partners does not appear to be complying with international rules on child abduction.

"They urge the Japanese authorities to enforce domestic and foreign court decisions on the return of the child and on access and visiting rights after the parents' relationship has ended, in order to bring their domestic laws in line with their international commitments and obligations."

The statement also called on Japanese authorities "to enforce international rules on child protection and to introduce changes to their legal system to allow for shared custody".

Shared custody is not possible under Japanese law.

The issue of parental abduction by Japanese parents was raised by the German, French and Italian leaders with the Japanese Prime Minister last year.

A formal complaint by parents has also been lodged at the UN.

The European Parliament has also called on the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs "to include the issue on the agenda of all bilateral and multilateral meetings with Japan".