The San Francisco Treaty of Peace
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the San Francisco
Treaty of Peace, a document signed by Japan and the Allied
Powers, though not the Soviet Union and many of its wartime
allies, including China.
With the U.S. having occupied Japan since 1945, the new Cold
War in Asia had suddenly become militarized with North
Korea''s invasion of South Korea in June 1950. At the same time
America needed to quit Japan and replace the occupation with a
new security arrangement in which the U.S. would retain military
bases throughout the nation, especially on Okinawa. But in order
to effect these changes, a peace conference needed to be
convened to put an end to the state of war with Japan.
Unfortunately, the San Francisco Treaty proved to be as divisive
as possible. China was not invited to the conference because the
U.S. had not recognized the new Peoples Republic; instead
choosing to support the Republic of China in Taiwan (back then
Formosa), where the Nationalists had fled in 1949 after Mao''s
victory on the mainland. ROC Taiwan, as it came to be called,
was viewed as the legitimate government of China by the U.S.
Events in Korea and Japan were also closely connected, and by
the early 1950s America''s partners were Japan, the Philippines,
South Korea and Taiwan...which were then pitted against the
Soviet Union, China, and North Korea.
The arrangement helped Japan immeasurably. After 1945,
American bias towards investment rather than consumption
during the occupation years lent Japan the capacity it needed to
get back on its feet. As historian Michael Howard notes, "Even
in the immediate aftermath of defeat, (Japan''s) people were able
to deploy their intense national pride and showed an unrivalled
capacity for collective effort."
But one of the reasons we bring up the San Francisco Treaty
today is the fact that many issues remain unresolved, such as the
issue of reparations, and accepting responsibility. Writing in the
Washington Post recently, strategist Steven Clemons notes that it
was John Foster Dulles who sought to eliminate any possibility
of war reparations in the Treaty, the feeling being that Japan
couldn''t afford it.
Back in 1919, Dulles had been a counselor at the Paris Peace
Conference where he unsuccessfully opposed heavy penalties
imposed by the Allies on Germany. The penalties were later
seen as a major cause of post-war Germany''s economic collapse
and the rise of Nazism.
But the Netherlands wasn''t going to sign the San Francisco
Treaty because many of its citizens had lost possessions in the
East Indies to the Japanese and the Dutch government insisted
they should be allowed to stake claim to these lost properties.
Dulles, afraid of an exodus by other powers, like the United
Kingdom, from the Treaty thus allowed a set of confidential
letters to be exchanged between the minister of foreign affairs of
the Netherlands and the Prime Minister of Japan. Then in 1956,
the Netherlands successfully pursued a claim against Japan and
was granted $10 million (after Japan needed to be reminded by
the U.S. of its obligation).
The U.S. and Britain chose not to pursue reparations on behalf of
nationals, with the U.S. issuing the comment, "Further pressure
would be likely to cause the maximum of resentment for the
minimum of advantage." But Clemons points out that today,
"Japan, and even the United States, are paying a different sort of
price for the amnesia and secrecy that both countries chose after
the war." The big issue today is that a group of American POWs
has staked a claim for their enslavement at the hands of Japanese
corporations, notably Mitsui and Mitsubishi, yet they have so far
been denied compensation in U.S. courts.
Clemons concludes: "The failure to support war claims is one of
the reasons Japan is still struggling with other nations over its
history. The Germans...have engaged in five decades of public
debate about Hitler and the Holocaust....The Japanese, however,
have not witnessed the court cases and public debates that would
help shape a shared understanding of history among Japanese
and their neighbors."
As for the U.S. State Department, here we once advanced the
claims of Dutch citizens, yet now we appear to be standing in the
way of claims filed by Americans.
A few snippets from the San Francisco Treaty of Peace
(a) The state of war between Japan and each of the Allied
Powers is terminated as from the date on which the
present Treaty comes into force between Japan and the Allied
(a) Japan recognizing the independence of Korea, renounces
all right, title and claim to Korea...
(b) Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Formosa
(c) Japan renounces all right, title and claim to the Kurile
Islands, and to that portion of Sakhalin...[both now
Japan renounces all special rights and interests in China...
(a) It is recognized that Japan should pay reparations to the
Allied Powers for the damage and suffering caused by it
during the war. Nevertheless it is also recognized that the
resources of Japan are not presently sufficient, if it is to
maintain a viable economy, to make complete reparation
for all such damage and suffering and at the same time
meet its other obligations.
Steven Clemons / Washington Post
"The Twentieth Century," J.M. Roberts
"Oxford History of the 20th Century" Michael Howard and Wm.