Friday marked the 65th anniversary of the day the San Francisco Peace Treaty took effect. China criticizes the treaty, saying it discredits the Cairo Declaration, and some in Taiwan say that the treaty leaves the nation’s status undecided. Both these claims are incorrect.
Then-British prime minister Winston Churchill said the 1943 Cairo Declaration set the goal for Japan to abandon its claim to Taiwan, and therefore Article 2 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which states that “Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Pescadores,” implements the declaration.
The Atlantic Charter — issued in 1941 — states that “they [US and British leaders] wish to see sovereignty rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them,” and the Declaration by the UN — agreed to in 1942 — “subscribed” to the Atlantic Charter.
In February 1945, during the Yalta Conference, leaders said that UN territorial trusteeship would apply to “territories detached from the enemy as a result of the war.” In June that year, Article 77 of the Charter of the UN implemented the protocol and Article 76 of the Charter of the UN added that one of the basic objectives of the trusteeship system is to promote the inhabitants’ “progressive development towards self-government or independence.”
Thus, there are a number of international agreements that are in support of Taiwanese independence.
Looking at Article 2 of the peace treaty in isolation, it does not say who Japan surrenders Taiwan to, and it would seem legitimate to claim that Taiwan’s status is undecided.
However, the preface of the treaty also states that Japan declares that it will conform to the principles of the UN Charter in all circumstances, so as to include the aforementioned clauses in international agreements, which also support Taiwanese independence.
This intention was made clearer when the treaty was amended after the Korean War broke out in June 1950.
In October 1950, before signing the peace treaty in 1951, the US proposed seven principles which stated that Taiwan’s status should be jointly decided by the US, the UK, Russia and China after Japan renounced its claim to Taiwan, and that if a decision had not been made within one year, the decision would instead be made by the UN General Assembly.
Knowing that it would be impossible for the four nations to reach an agreement and that the Taiwan issue would inevitably be decided by the UN General Assembly, the US also proposed that the UN discuss Taiwan’s status. As a result, the revised seven principles, the related communique and other memorandums between then-US president Harry Truman and then-British prime minister Clement Attlee simply mentioned Japanese UN membership without mentioning the UN Charter.
It was not long before the US — to its surprise — found that many of its UN allies believed that Taiwan should be handed to China in accordance with the Cairo Declaration after Japan’s renouncement of sovereignty. Washington therefore added to the preface in the initial draft of the peace treaty that Japan declared it would conform to the principles of the UN Charter.
By doing so, Taiwan’s status would be decided based on the UN Charter, rather than by the UN General Assembly. On Feb. 7, 1951, the UK proposed that the UN Assembly shelve the motion on Taiwan’s status indefinitely as a complementary measure.
The peace treaty draft was modified at least three times — on March 23, July 6 and July 18, 1951 — but the preface in which Japan declared that it would conform to the principles of the UN Charter remained unchanged in all versions.
A careful reading of Article 2 of the treaty, which states that Japan renounces its claim to Formosa and the Penghu Islands, makes it clear that Taiwan, after Japan’s renouncement, should come under UN territorial trusteeship, self-government or independence.
This was not included in writing in the peace treaty because the US was hoping that Russia would sign the treaty too. However, Russia demanded that Taiwan be handed to China in accordance with the Cairo Declaration.
When then-US secretary of state John Dulles read the treaty article by article before the signing and after learning that Russia would not sign it, he dropped a hint on Taiwan’s status by mentioning Article 77 of the UN Charter, according to which the trusteeship system shall apply to territories which may be detached from enemy states as a result of the war.
On Jan. 12, 1949, then-president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) called then-governor of Taiwan Province Chen Cheng (陳誠) privately to inform him that until the peace treaty was signed, Taiwan was just a territory under the Republic of China’s (ROC) trusteeship.
It is thus evident that there was no difference between the view of the ROC and the international community on Taiwan’s status at that time. If only the San Francisco Peace Treaty articles are read without also reading the preface, a misunderstanding of the facts is unavoidable.
Sim Kiantek is a former associate professor of business administration at National Chung Hsing University.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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