It has been 60 years since the Treaty of Peace with Japan, also known as the San Francisco Peace Treaty, was signed. The treaty has become the international legal basis for discussing the status of Taiwan following the end of World War II and it takes precedence over the Cairo Communique.
However, Taiwan’s undetermined status, as highlighted in the treaty, does not please President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), and a few days ago he reiterated his view that the Cairo Declaration and the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty, also known as the Treaty of Taipei, both confirm that Taiwan was returned to the Republic of China (ROC).
When the US released its China White Paper in 1949, it was already clear that the US Department of State was getting ready to give up on the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government. However, US General Douglas MacArthur stressed that Chinese communism was a huge threat to the US’ position in the western Pacific Ocean and that its security operations in the region would be fundamentally shaken if Taiwan were to also fall to the communists.
Especially worthy of attention is that the Korean War broke out in 1950, when then-US secretary of state John Foster Dulles was still in Tokyo negotiating a peace treaty with Japan. Three days later, on June 27, then-US president Harry Truman announced that the Seventh Fleet of the US Navy would enter the Taiwan Strait to stop the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from attacking Taiwan, while also stopping the KMT government from launching sea and air attacks on China. Truman’s statement clearly said that a decision on the future status of Formosa would have to wait until peace was restored in the Pacific or a peace agreement had been signed with Japan, or be left for consideration with the UN.
An investigation of information at the National Archives in Washington shows that what is known as the Provisional Draft of the Japanese Peace Treaty was changed several times in 1950 and 1951. The initial wording handed Formosa and the Pescadores directly to China, stating that “Japan hereby cedes to China, in full sovereignty, the island of Formosa and the Pescadores.”
However, the version from May 3, 1951, lumped Korea and Formosa and the Pescadores together, saying that “Japan renounces all rights, titles and claims to Korea, Formosa and the Pescadores.”
By July 13, 1951, the treaty finally separated Korea from Formosa and the Pescadores, clearly stating that Japan recognizes the independence of Korea, while it only mentioned that Japan renounced Formosa and the Pescadores: “Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Pescadores.”
During this process, the KMT government strongly resisted Taiwan being entrusted to the UN, but said, through the ROC’s ambassador to the US at the time, Wellington Koo (顧維鈞), that it did not disagree with the suggestion that the four major powers decide the status of Formosa and the Pescadores. Luckily, Dulles was eventually able to resist pressure from the UK and insisted on “freezing” the issue of Taiwan’s status and this was how the version of the peace treaty in which Japan merely renounced any rights to Taiwan came into being.
The direct implication of Taiwan’s undetermined status is that it does not belong to Japan, the US, or China, making Taiwanese self-determination the natural choice.
However, long-term rule by the KMT, a foreign regime, has covered up the fact that Taiwan does not belong to China. Instead of all the extravagant talk about sovereignty and independence, Taiwanese would do better to first ask themselves whether they can end the rule of the KMT.
Chen Yi-shen is an associate research fellow in the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON
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