Japanese Treaties After World War II

After World War II, the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco officially declared peace between the Allied Powers and Japan. In this treaty, the war was officially ended, Japan was stripped of its military power, and reparations were awarded to countries that had been subject to Japanese war crimes. However, Japan executed several other treaties with its Asian neighbors in the years after the San Francisco Peace Treaty. These included “Treaty of Peace between the Republic of China and Japan” (1952), “Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea” (1965), and “Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People’s Republic of China” (finalized in 1978).

The three treaties were similar in that they all agreed to the principles of the United Nations Charter, all three addressed the issues of trade, aviation, shipping, and fishing, and each treaty normalized relations between the two countries that signed it. However, there were also differences among Japan’s treaties with the three countries, and the differences were the result of historical relationships between the two countries involved. Japan did not have identical histories with Taiwan, Korea, and China; therefore each treaty addressed issues that had occurred in the past between the two appropriate countries.

For example, two of the three post-WWII treaties mentioned that earlier treaties were null and void, while one did not. One treaty specifically stated that neither country would attempt to gain regional domination, while the other two did not. Finally, the Chinese treaty acknowledged the damages done by Japan to the people of China, while the treaties with Taiwan and Korea did not. In each case, the difference was related directly to the historical relationship between the two countries.

The treaties between Japan and Taiwan and between Japan and Korea specifically stated that all treaties prior to a particular date were null and void. Article II of “Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea” indicated “It is confirmed that all treaties or agreements concluded between the Empire of Japan and the Empire of Korea on or before August 22, 1910 are already null and void.” The date given, August 22, 1910, was the date on which Korea was annexed by Japan. This annexation was forced gradually on Korea as the culmination of the unilateral Kanghwa treaty of 1876, increasingly unfair trade agreements, and the Japan-Korea Protection (Eulsa) Treaty of 1905. Thus, it was important for the post-World War II Japan-Korea treaty to include particular mention of this past Japanese aggression.

Similarly, the “Treaty of Peace between the Republic of China and Japan” executed in 1952 stated, “It is recognized that all treaties, conventions, and agreements concluded before 9 December 1941 between Japan and China have become null and void as a consequence of the war.” Japan had acquired Taiwan, Penghu, and other island properties after the First Sino-Japanese War, which ended with Japanese victory in 1895. The Treaty of Shimonoseki, executed in April, 1895, acknowledged Korea’s independence and gave Taiwan, plus the additional land indicated above, to Japan. Japan aggressively made use of the residents of Korea and Taiwan to its own benefit as a consequence of these two treaties. Although treaties with China had also allowed brutalization of the Chinese people, the treaties were not mentioned in the later peace accords with the People’s Republic of China.

Another difference in the three treaties is the subject of regional domination. The treaties between Japan and Korea, and between Japan and Taiwan, made no mention of seeking regional domination or hegemony, while the joint communiqué and treaty between Japan and the People’s Republic of China emphasized that neither would attempt to achieve hegemony in the area. The inclusion of this point in the treaty was based on the history of Japan and China in East Asia – beginning in the latter half of the 19th century, the modernized Japanese military began to take over the nearby islands and parts of mainland China. Because the Japanese military had more efficient weapons and techniques of warfare, they were able to win the First Sino-Japanese war in 1895. Between 1895 and 1931, Japan fought with Russia over supremacy in East Asia. Japan gained greater areas of Manchuria and, in 1931, set up the puppet government of Manchukuo. This was followed by the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. Thus, Japan had a long record of trying to achieve hegemony in East Asia. This record had to be addressed by the treaty with China.

The treaties with Taiwan and Korea did not acknowledge Japanese crimes against the citizens of those countries. Japan had occupied the two countries and required hard work from the people, but the massacres that occurred in China (especially Manchuria) did not occur in the smaller countries. Japan had been very harsh towards China, killing many people and committing numerous war crimes. Thus, the Treaty between Japan and the People’s Republic of China had to acknowledge damages done to the people of the country.

An examination of the treaties executed by Japan with its neighbors (Taiwan, Korea, and China) reflects the historical precedents and events between each pair of countries. These additional treaties (after the Treaty of San Francisco) were required due to Japan’s previous aggression, attempts at regional domination, and genocide.


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