"The World and Japan" Database Project
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
Institute of Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo

[Title] Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida's Speech at the San Francisco Peace Conference

[Place] San Francisco
[Date] September 7, 1951
[Source] Gaimusho joyaku-kyoku hokika, Heiwa joyaku no teiketsu ni kansuru chosho VII, pp.313-317.
[Notes]
[Full text]

The peace treaty before the Conference contains no punitive or retaliatory clauses; nor does it impose upon Japan any permanent restrictions or disabilities. It will restore the Japanese people to full sovereignty, equality, and freedom, and reinstate us as a free and equal member in the community of nations. It is not a treaty of vengeance, but an instrument of reconsiliation. The Japanese Delegation gladly accepts this fair and generous treaty.

On the other hand, during these past few days in this very conference hall criticisms and complaints have been voiced by some delegations against this treaty. It is impossible that anyone can be completely satisfied with a multilateral peace settlement of this kind. Even we Japanese, who are happy to accept the treaty, find in it certain points which cause us pain and anxiety.

I speak of this with diffidence, bearing in mind the treaty's fairness and magnanimity unparalleled in history and the position of Japan. But I would be remiss in my obligation to my own people if I failed to call your attention to these points.

In the first place, there is the matter of territorial disposition. As regards the Ryukyu archipelago and the Bonins which may be placed under United Nations trusteeship, I welcome in the name of the Japanese nation the statements by the American and British Delegates on the residual sovereignty of Japan over the islands south of the 29th degree, north latitude. I cannot but hope that the administration of these islands will be put back into Japanese hands in the not distant future with the reestablishment of world security-especially the security of Asia.

With respect to the Kuriles and South Sakhalin, I cannot yield to the c1aim of the Soviet Delegate that Japan had grabbed them by aggression. At the time of the opening of Japan, her ownership of two islands of Etoroff and Kunashiri of the South Kuriles was not questioned at all by the Czarist government. But the North Kuriles north of Urruppu and the southern half of Sakhalin were areas open to both Japanese and Russian settlers. On May 7, 1875 the Japanese and Russian Governments effected through peaceful negotiations an arrangement under which South Sakhalin was made Russian territory, and the North Kuriles were in exchange made Japanese territory.

But really, under the name of "exchange" Japan simply ceded South Sakhalin to Russia in order to settle the territorial dispute. It was under the Treaty of Portsmouth of 1905 concluded through the intermediary of President Theodore Roosevelt of the United States that South Sakhalin became also Japanese territory.

Both Sakhalin and the North and South Kuriles were taken unilaterally by Russia as of September 20, 1945, shortly after Japan's surrender. Even the islands of Habomai and Shikotan, constituting part of Hokkaido, one of Japan's four main islands, are still being occupied by Soviet forces simply because they happened to be garrisoned by Japanese troops at the time when the war ended.

The second point is economic. Japan has lost 45 percent of her entire territory together with its resources. Her population of almost 84 million has to be confined within the remaining areas, which are war-devastated, with their important cities bombed and burnt. The peace treaty will deprive Japan of her vast overseas assets. Moreover, article 14 empowers Allied Nations, which have suffered no damage from the war, to seize Japanese private property in their countries. There is fear as to whether Japan, reduced to such a predicament, could ever manage to pay reparations to certain designated Allied Powers without shifting the burden upon the other Allied Powers. However, we have undertaken the obligations of the treaty in this respect, and we mean to carry them out. I solicit the understanding and support of the governments concerned vis-a-vis Japan's efforts toward a satisfactory solution of this problem in the face of huge difficulties.

With her war-shattered economy salvaged through American aid, Japan is making progress on the road of recovery. We are determined that our nation shall cease to be a burden on other countries but shall contribute positively to world prosperity, while observing fully the fair trade practices in international commerce. For this purpose domestic laws have already been promulgated. By perfecting this legislative machinery and by participating in the various international agreements we intend to contribute to the wholesome development of world trade. The present treaty opens the door to the realization of such aspirations of Japan in the field of international economy. But the same door may be closed by the Allied Nations at any time. This may be an inherent feature of such a peace treaty. I only hope that the door will be kept open by all countries as widely as possible.

Since my speech was prepared I have heard the three questions put to me this morning by the distinguished Foreign Minister of Indonesia. The questions seek to resolve doubts such as have been expressed by some others.

The answer to these questions is "Yes" since that means in our opinion a fair interpretation of articles 14 and 9 of the treaty. I hope that this answer will resolve any doubts of others as to Japan's good intentions under the treaty.

Thirdly, there is the question of repatriation. The conclusion of this peace treaty arouses afresh the anxiety of the Japanese people regarding the fate of the more than 340 thousand of their compatriots, who have failed to return. In the name of humanity I would like to appeal to all Allied Powers for continued assistance and cooperation toward speeding the repatriation of these hapless Japanese nationals through the instrumentality of the United Nations, or by any other means. We are thankful that a provision relating to repatriation has been inserted in the treaty at the final stage of drafting.

In spite of the existence of these causes for anxiety, or rather because of it, Japan is all the more anxious to conclude the peace treaty. For we expect that Japan as a sovereign and equal power would gain wider opportunities for eliminating anxiety, as wel{sic} as for dissipating the dissatisfactions, apprehensions, and misgivings on the part of other powers.

I hope the peace treaty will be signed by as many as possible of the countries represented at this Conference. Japan is determined to establish with them relations of mutual trust and understanding and to work together for the advancement of the cause of world democracy and world freedom.

It is with keen regret that the Japanese Delegation notes the absence of India and Burma. As an Asiatic nation Japan is specially desirous to cultivate relations of closest friendship and cooperation with other Asiatic nations with whom we share common problems, common spiritual and cultural heritages, and common aspirations and ideals. We hope Japan may become a good member of the world community by being first a good member of the immediate neighborhood by contributing her full share toward its prosperity and progress.

As regards China, I confine my remarks to two points. The first point is that like others, we regret that disunity prevents China from being here. The second is that the role of China trade in Japanese economy, important as it is, has often been exaggerated, as proven by our experience of the past 6 years.

Unfortunately, the sinister forces of totalitarian oppression and tyranny operate still throughout the globe. These forces are sweeping over half the Asiatic continent, sowing seeds of dissension, spreading unrest and confusion, and breaking out into open aggression here and there-indeed, at the very door of Japan. Being unarmed as we are, we must, in order to ward off the danger of war, seek help from a country that can and will help us. That is why we shall conclude a security pact with the United States under which American troops will be retained in Japan temporarily until the danger is past, or international peace and security will have been assured under the United Nations auspices or a collective security arrangement. Japan was exposed once to the menace of Czarist imperialism from the north which threatened the Kuriles and Hokkaido. Today it is the Communist menace that threatens her from the same direction. When the Allied troops are withdrawn from our country with the conclusion of peace, producing a state of vacuum in the country, it is clear as day that this tide of aggression will beat down upon our shores. It is imperative for the sake of our very existence that we take an adequate security measure.

This should not raise the bugbear of Japanese peril. Japan, beaten and battered, dispossessed of her overseas possessions and resources, is absolutely incapable of equipping herself for modern warfare to such an extent as to make her a military menace to her neighbors. For that she has not the materials; she has not the means; she has not the will.

President Truman at the opening ceremony of this Conference spoke of the sweeping political and social reforms of the spiritual regeneration, as well as the material rehabilitation of Japan, which the country has realized during the past six postwar years of Allied occupation under the wise direction and benevolent guidance of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, and his successor, General Ridgway. Japan of today is no longer the Japan of yesterday. We will not fail your expectations of us as a new nation dedicated to peace, democracy, and freedom.

Almost a century has passed since Japan first entered the world community by concluding a treaty of amity with the United States of America in 1854. Meanwhile there have been two world wars bringing astounding changes on the map of the Far East. Present at this Conference are the delegates representing a number of new states-most of which are members of the United Nations, born here in San Francisco 6 years ago. They are united with many other states in the East and the West in the one purpose to advance the cause of world democracy and freedom and to promote world peace and prosperity through unreserved cooperation under the Charter of the United Nations.

I am glad to believe that the signing of the Japanese Peace Treaty today marks one good fruit of their noble endeavors in that direction. It is my sincere hope that Japan will soon be permitted to join that glorious world organization of yours. For it is in the very language of the Charter itself that there is to be found the essence of the ideals and the determination of the new Japan.

Nowhere more than in Japan itself can there be found today a greater determination to play a full part in saving "succeeding generations from the scourge of war."

We have listened here to the delegates who have recalled the terrible human suffering, and the great material destruction of the late war in the Pacific. It is with feelings of sorrow that we recall the part played in that catastrophic human experience by the old Japan.

I speak of the old Japan, because out of the ashes of the old Japan there has risen a new Japan.

My people have been among those who suffered greatly from the destruction and devastation of the recent war. Purged by that suffering of all untoward ambition, of all desire for the path of military conquest, my people burn now with a passionate desire to live at peace with their neighbors in the Far East, and in the entire world, and to rebuild their society so that it will in ever greater fullness yield a better life for all.

Japan has opened a new chapter in its history.

We see in the future a new era among nations, an era of peace and harmony as described in the opening words of the Charter of the United Nations.

We seek to take our place among the nations who are dedicated to peace, to justice, to progress and freedom, and we pledge ourselves that Japan shall play its full part in striving toward these ends.

We pray that henceforth not only Japan but all mankind may know the blessings of harmony and progress.