The United States and Post-War Japan, toward Greater Japanese Autonomy

Publication type Article
Status Published
Affiliation: Kyoto Sangyo University
Address: Japan, Kyoto
Journal nameUSA & Canada: ekonomika, politika, kultura
EditionUssue 11

The essay devoted to analysis оf the evolution of the relations between Japan and the USA in the period after the end of the Second World War and up to the present day. Under evaluation there is an American occupation policy influence on formation of the strategic course of the Japanese foreign and domestic policy over the post-war period. The choice was in favour of the military alliance with the USA in the interest of concentration of the country's own efforts not on formation of defense potential but on economic revival, modernization and social development. This choice put limits on possibilities for independent actions in the spheres of international relations and defence policy. In the process of obtaining solid economic potential aspirations for greater independence in the framework of the alliance with the USA have started to develop. There are descriptions of the examples of such attempts. Japanese-American relations in the period during the prime-minister Abe and President Trump administrations are also under analysis.

KeywordsJapanese-American relations, doctrine of Japanese foreign policy, military-political alliance between the USA and Japan, autonomy
Publication date29.10.2019
Number of characters24044
100 rub.
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This essay tries to describe the United States seen from the perspective of a former Japanese diplomat who has experienced it through his family narrative1, his own experience and all that he came to learn in living within the Japanese society.

1. The author was born in a family of diplomats. His grandfather Togo Shigenori was twice Japan’s foreign Minister, first at the Cabinet of Tojo Hideki, which started the Pacific War, and the Cabinet of Suzuki Kantaro, which ended that war. His father, Togo Fumihiko, married Togo Shigenori’s daughter Ise and adopted the name of Togo, assumed important posts in relation to post-war Japan’s policy toward the United Sates, and became vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to the United Sates.
2 The starting point is 1945, when the author was born, Japan was defeated and capitulated to the United States and its allies after prolonged war that lasted since 1941. Since I was born a grandson of Togo Shigenori, who was the foreign minister of the Cabinet of Tojo Hideki, which started the Pacific War against the United States in 1941 and then the Cabinet of Suzuki Kantaro, which ended that war in 1945, my basic knowledge and recollection of the capitulation originates from the family narrative from my mother, who was the only daughter to Shigenori, and lived very close to her father in these war years.
3 Fundamentally the position of the surrendering cabinet headed by Prime Minister Suzuki Kantaro to which Togo Shigenori joined in April 1945 was to accept terms of surrender with one condition, preservation of “national polity”, meaning “Imperial Household” through mediation by the Soviet Union, which was the sole global power which Japan was not at war with. The Suzuki Cabinet transmitted a decisive message of capitulation in its instruction to Ambassador Sato Naotake in Moscow on July 12 reaching punctually to Stalin before his departure to Potsdam. American position, having taken into account the July 12 message for surrender, was issued in the form of Potsdam Declaration dated July 26. There was sufficient knowledge in one part of the US administration, with enough expertise about Japan, that the only condition which the Japanese government would insist upon was the preservation of the Imperial Household, meaning the preservation of Japan’s identity.
4 But the Potsdam Declaration was intentionally left vague on this point, and while the Suzuki Cabinet spent several days of precious decision making still waiting the final message to come from Stalin, on August 6 an atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima and on August, 9, the second bomb fell on Nagasaki and the Soviet Union entered the war against Japan and attacked Manchuria. Predictably, the Government of Japan, under the first Imperial decision, issued on August 10 accepted Potsdam Declaration with one condition: “its understanding that the power of ruling of the Emperor would be maintained”. On August 13 the American leadership responded that “the future of Japanese polity will be decided by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people.” The second Imperial decision was made on August 14 to accept this term.



On September 2, the formal surrender document was signed by the representatives of Japan, Foreign Minister Shigemitsu Mamoru and General Umezu Yoshijiro, Chief of Staff of the Army, and General Douglas MacArthur and other allies’ representatives. The occupation began. The occupation policy was directed largely by the United States. It consisted of so called three “D’s” during the first two years: Demilitarization, Democratization and Decentralization.

6 The most important objective was understandably Demilitarization, because the United States was determined to deprive Imperial Japan of military power, both physically and mentally, never to let it become a threat to the existence of the United States. The dissolvement of the military went on without major obstacles. How to write in the constitution a pacifist article not to allow Japan to become a military power was a more difficult matter of negotiations between the Genral Headqurters (GHQ) of the occupation forces and the Japanese government led by Shidehara Kijuro, but by March 1946, a strongly pacifist Article 9 was formulated and gained consensus. From the Japanese side another matter of utmost concern was the position which the Imperial Household would gain in the Constitution. Shidehara and MacArthur agreed in the March draft, to define in article 1 Emperor’s position as “the symbol of the state”
7 Another critical issue related to Demilitarization was the war criminals’ tribunal. The so-called Tokyo Trial was held from May 1946 till November 1948. For the accused in the Tokyo trial and for the Japanese government remaining in power the most critical issue was to keep the Emperor out of the Tokyo Trial. Emperor was successfully removed from the list of the accused, and nothing really substantial happened during the procedure of the trial touching upon the war responsibility of the Emperor. It is often attributed to MacArthur’s occupation policy of “expedience” that Emperor’s position was protected. He thought that occupation policy will be carried out more effectively if the Emperor would support it. But whatever MacArthur’s intention, the sole condition attached to surrender by the falling government of the Empire of Japan was thus kept. One needs rightly to attribute this factor as a starting point of trust-building between Japan and the United States in post-war years.

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