Over the weekend, the world observed the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in the Pacific theater. Thoughtful analysts have explored how the war and postwar settlement continue to shape historical memory in East Asia. Over at the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, we have a collection of maps that explain Asia at the end of the war, as well as several pieces on the role that maritime Asia played in the strategies of the victorious Allies in 1945. Rarely recalled, however, is the fact that the 21st-century standoffs over the Kuril Islands, Spratly and Paracel Islands, and Senkaku Islands have roots in the postwar settlement, which was largely constructed by the United States.
On September 8, 1951, 48 nations signed the Treaty of San Francisco, officially making peace with Japan, which had been defeated and occupied six years earlier. The treaty sought to formalize the Allies’ existing agreements on the shape of the postwar world. This included the 1941 Atlantic Charter’scommitment to “no territorial aggrandizement” and the restoration of self-government to conquered states, as well as the 1943 Cairo Declaration’scommitment to strip Japan of all territory it had obtained through conquest since the early 20th century. The Treaty was informed by agreements reached between the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union at the Yalta andPotsdam conferences in 1945, as the Allies planned for peace. Notably, however, neither the Republic of China (ROC) nor the People’s Republic of China (PRC) attended the San Francisco conference or signed the treaty, as they were embroiled in civil war.
The map below was attached to the San Francisco Treaty and used to illustrate the territorial clauses of the agreement. The dashed lines represented the territory that Japan was to relinquish, and the visible typeface is the actual text of Articles 2 and 3 of the Treaty, which identify the territories Japan was to lose. Included in these articles were Japan’s renunciation of Korea, Formosa (present day Taiwan), and the Pescadores, as well as its holdings in the Pacific Islands. Japan also relinquished the Kuril Islands, the Spratly and Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, and the Ryukyu Islands, including the Senkakus.