Honor the postwar order
Commitments Japan made when it accepted the provisions of the Cairo and Potsdam declarations must be fulfilled
On Dec 1, 1943, China, the United States and Britain jointly issued the Cairo Declaration, which explicitly states “that Japan shall be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific which she has seized or occupied since the beginning of the First World War in 1914, and that all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and The Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China”. Manchuria, Formosa and The Pescadores stand respectively for present-day China’s Northeast, Taiwan and the Penghu Islands.
The declaration also demanded Japan be expelled from all other territories it had taken by violence and greed.
The landmark document not only shows the Allied powers’ common will and unity to stop and punish Japanese aggression, it also serves as the foundation of the territorial arrangement and regional peace order in the Asia-Pacific region after World War II. Therefore, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Cairo Declaration has profound and far-reaching significance today.
On July 26, 1945, the Potsdam Declaration, issued by China, the US and Britain, reaffirmed that: “The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine.” In September 1945, Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration in explicit terms with the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, “acting by command of and in behalf of the Emperor of Japan, the Japanese Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, hereby accept the provisions set forth in the declaration issued by the heads of the Governments of the United States, China and Great Britain on 26 July 1945, at Potsdam”, and pledged to faithfully fulfill the obligations set out in the two documents.
The Cairo Declaration, together with the Potsdam Declaration are the fundamental sources of a series of international laws. The authority of the Cairo Declaration is conclusive and any moves to defy it will destabilize the foundation and legitimacy of today’s international order.
However, some strident Japanese right-wing forces and nationalists are taking pains to question the existence and legal validity of the Cairo Declaration and are attempting to use the invalid San Francisco Peace Treaty to offset or replace the Cairo Declaration.
Japan’s attempts to cast doubts on the legal implications of the Potsdam Declaration are groundless. From the point of view of the source of law, the Potsdam Declaration was the successor of the Cairo Declaration, as it explicitly stated that the terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out.
The Cairo Declaration not only determined Japan’s postwar territorial boundaries, it also sought to end Japan’s imperialism and militarism. The Cairo Declaration has binding force stemming from historical legitimacy. The Cairo Declaration is the source in law of Japan’s Instrument of Surrender, and Article 98 of the Constitution of Japan explicitly stipulates that the treaties concluded by Japan and established laws of nations shall be faithfully observed.
As China marks the 70th anniversary of the Cairo Declaration, the document is still of great significance, as not only does it identify China’s ownership of Taiwan and its affiliated islands, including the Diaoyu Islands, therefore serving as the legal guardian for China to safeguard the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands, it is also a landmark document that recognizes the Chinese nation’s awakening and struggle to victory in WWII.
Today, China is seeking to build a new type of relations between major powers and engaging in periphery diplomacy to strengthen relations with its neighbors. The spirit and principles of the Cairo Declaration should be defended and practiced with the purpose of maintaining world peace and development. Therefore, China has been urging the Japanese to face up to history and faithfully honor the commitments it made at the end of WWII. China also hopes that the major powers setting the goals for the postwar world order can responsibly abide by the terms of the Cairo Declaration and ensure its implementation.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his government seek to turn back the clock and regain what they see as Japan’s powerful nationhood, and are trying to build up its military muscle again. But to speed up its military buildup, Japan must first revise its pacifist Constitution. So to overturn and deny the international verdict on its aggressive and militarist past Japan is openly distorting history. The provocative remarks and actions of Japan’s ultra-conservative group should serve as a wake-up call to the world.
The Japanese government’s intransigent stance that there is no dispute over the Diaoyu Islands and its denial of other historical truths have seriously damaged Sino-Japanese relations. The crux of the problem is the two-faced tactics being employed by Abe and his cabinet in its policy toward China place constraints on China’s endeavors to maintain and promote friendly ties. Japan must change its stance if relations are to get back on track.
To improve bilateral relations and prevent the good feelings between the two peoples from fading away has become an urgent task. The author is deputy director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.