chapter  8
16 Pages

Britain and the origins of the San Francisco system


Introduction The Treaty of Peace with Japan was signed by forty-nine nations in San Francisco on 8 September 1951. The signatories included most of the belligerents in the war against Japan, but the delegation of the Soviet Union, followed by the representatives of Poland and Czechoslovakia, left the conference without signing the treaty. As a result of the peace treaty, Japan regained its sovereignty and returned to an international society where the Cold War was already taking full shape. The Soviet refusal to sign the treaty and the absence of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) resulted from tensions between East and West and reflected Japan’s alignment with the West. Only hours after the conclusion of the peace treaty, the Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshida Shigeru, signed a security treaty with the United States. The nature of post-war international relations in East Asia, which were greatly determined by the 1951 settlement, has often been described as the ‘San Francisco System’. Given America’s ostensibly predominant influence on post-war East Asian international relations, the bulk of earlier works on the Japanese peace settlement have concentrated on the role of the United States.1 However, since the release in the 1980s of the relevant British documents, the position of Britain has also been examined by authors such as Roger Buckley, Peter Lowe and Kibata Yoichi.2 Regardless of the divergence in their focus, these authors tended to conclude that Britain played a moderate part in the formation of the peace treaty as the joint draft-sponsor, but only within the framework of a formula which the Americans had drawn up according to their own requirements. Indeed, Britain made many concessions to the Americans, including the exclusion from the peace treaty of any restriction on rearmament. In contrast, this chapter focuses attention more on the contribution made by Britain to the formation of the San Francisco System, rather than looking at specific peace treaty questions. The term ‘San Francisco System’ has been commonly used in various monographs, but its definition varies according to authors. For example, Akira Iriye describes the System as a new regime of AmericanJapanese relations resulting from the San Francisco treaties, under which Japan’s economic recovery and prosperity, including its security, were to be closely

linked with the emerging American strategy. He further points out, as a new feature of the regional order, the increased economic ties between Japan and Southeast Asia in the absence of any vigorous trade between Japan and mainland China.3 By shedding more light on the role of Britain, this chapter sees the San Francisco System as reflecting broader East Asian international relations rather than being predominantly determined by US Cold War policies. For the purposes of subsequent argument, the System is here defined as covering three major elements. First, as a result of the partial peace treaty with the West, Japan’s political split with its communist neighbours became decisive. Although Japan normalized its relationship with the USSR in 1956, a political rapprochement between Japan and the PRC was not achieved until the early 1970s. Second, as part of the 1951 settlement, three security arrangements, namely the US-Japan Security Treaty, the security treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the US (ANZUS) and the US-Philippines mutual defence treaty, were formulated. The distinctive feature of the post-war security framework in the Pacific was that no over-riding multilateral arrangement materialized that involved all of America’s allies in the region; instead, several ‘separate’ pacts were concluded with the United States. Thus, Japan depended solely on the bilateral security treaty, never joining any multilateral security arrangement. Third, regardless of its political distance from the PRC, Japan’s trade with mainland China continued to evolve after the peace settlement, despite a temporary severance of bilateral relations from 1958 to 1962. These three elements interlocked to form the System, and it can be said that, at least until the early 1970s, Japan’s foreign policy was conducted within the framework of the System. In discussing Britain’s involvement in the peace settlement, this chapter mainly explores two questions. First, it examines what objectives Britain developed regarding the peace settlement and what factors affected the unfolding of its aims. Second, it discusses how effective Britain’s approach was in influencing American thinking. The chapter thereby attempts to assess how great a part Britain played in the formation of the San Francisco System. The focus here is placed more on the political and security aspects rather than on the economic dimension.