The Japanese couple, who are in their fifties, turned to an American surrogate mother after various fertility treatments had failed, domestic media said on Wednesday.

After refusing to accept the Japanese couple's application to register the babies as their own last week, the Justice Ministry then said it would consider registering them as the offspring of the Japanese man and the US surrogate mother on the basis of a California court ruling.

This would allow the children, who are living in Japan as
registered foreigners, to be granted Japanese citizenship, a ministry official said. The boys already have US citizenship. 

"The initial application contradicted the facts of the case by saying that the children were born to the Japanese couple," the official said. 

Adoption

He added that the Japanese couple would need to adopt the babies to create a legal relationship between them and the Japanese woman. 

This is the first such case in Japan, where surrogate births arranged through third parties are banned. Japan's Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology also bans its members from assisting in surrogate births. 

A government panel recently recommended that surrogate mothers, rather than the women who make a contract with them to give birth, be recognised as legal parents.