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Japan's foreign policy in the 1950s


San Francisco treaty
San Francisco treaty

During the course of the 1950s Japan reestablished normal diplomatic relations with most of the countries that had not signed the peace treaty, and negotiated reparations agreements with the countries it had invaded. In 1956 the USSR and Japan agreed to end the technical state of war that had existed between the two countries since 1945; however, they did not formally conclude a peace treaty. A continuing source of conflict was the question of ownership of the Kuril Islands. The San Francisco peace treaty had not specified which islands were included in the Kurils, and Japan continued to claim three islands and one island group occupied by the USSR. The USSR agreed in principle to return the islands nearest Hokkaid? if a peace treaty was signed between the two countries, but the issue of the other two islands was left open. With the USSR no longer blocking the way, in 1956 the United Nations (UN), an international organization founded in 1945 to promote peace, security, and economic development, admitted Japan to its membership. Nevertheless, Japan’s postwar international role remained a subject of domestic political debate in the 1950s. The mutual security treaty, along with the Yoshida government’s commitment to rearm Japan by creating a new National Self-Defense Force (SDF), caused bitter disagreement between the right and the left.

The conservative political parties, which became unified as the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 1955, favored close ties with the United States. They supported limited rearmament but hoped to revise the security treaty to provide for greater equality between the two countries. The left wing, including the Socialist and Communist parties, opposed the security treaty. They called for Japan to maintain a position of neutrality in the Cold War, allied with neither the United States nor the USSR.

The Japanese public, fearful that Japan might be pulled into a war between the U.S. and Soviet blocs, also harbored doubts about the treaty. In the spring of 1960 the debate over ratification of a revised security treaty occasioned massive popular demonstrations and riots in Tokyo and other large cities. The sitting prime minister, Kishi Nobusuke, was forced to resign.

To many it seemed that Japan’s postwar democracy was facing a major crisis. But the revised treaty was ratified by the LDP-dominated Diet, and by the end of summer political calm had been restored. For the next three decades the LDP continued to govern the country, and its policies of cooperation with the United States abroad and economic development at home set the course for postwar Japan. "Japan" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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