Published On: Sat, Aug 3rd, 2019

The Yoshida Doctrine and Japan’s Foreign Policy in the 1950s

Yoshida’s policy sacrificed Japan’s intervention in international security issues in favour of focusing the country’s efforts on economic rehabilitation. He used the Japanese people’s war-weariness and Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution (drafted in 1947) to implement the policy. Article 9 stated that:

The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained…

The US Japan Security Treaty of 1951

By limiting Japan’s armed forces, Yoshida would have to rely on the US – Japan Security Treaty of 1951 and later revised in 1960, whereby The United States would provide military assistance if Japan came under attack. Japan however, due to Article 9 would not be required to aid the United States militarily should it come under attack. Yoshida and his successor’s implementation of this policy was highly successful at rejuvenating the Japanese economy. In post-war Japan, particularly up until the 1960s, the policy had the backing of the Japanese people, largely due to the ‘pacifist’ and left wing ideological positions after the horrors of seeing the almost complete destruction of their country by the end of the war. (Mendl, 1995: p.34)

Japan, Taiwan and the PRC

What was the effect of this policy on Japan’s relationships with countries in East Asia? In the 1950s Japan was keen to establish some modicum of normality in its dealings with China, particularly commercial links that would be highly beneficial in aiding Japan’s economic recovery. However, Japan had to deal with the hard-line attitude that The United States had towards Beijing at the time. Japan was keen to follow the United Kingdom in recognizing the PRC, however, due to American pressure Japan was ‘obliged to recognize Taiwan, its trade with the PRC was limited and the establishment of semi-official links with Beijing was hard going’. (Buckley, 2002 p.113) Japan was ‘obliged’ to follow the American lead due to the potential of the American open market, which Japan relied on for its recovery and this could not be jeopardized in favour of greater trade with the PRC.

The Yoshida Doctrine and Japan's Foreign Policy in the 1950s

Japanese-Soviet Relations: Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands

Relations with the USSR in this period centred on the disputed islands north of Hokkaido which the Soviet Union had occupied after the war. Japan was keen to open negotiations with the Soviet Union and in 1954, the new Prime Minister Hatoyama Ichiro declared that ‘Japan desired, without prejudice to her cooperation with the Free World, to normalize relations with the Soviet Union and China on terms mutually acceptable.’ Over the issue of the so-called northern territories, The United States drew Japan’s attention to the San Francisco peace treaty and Article 2c, which stated that:

The United States Policy of Containment and Isolation

The United States stated that any agreements with the Soviet Union on this issue could jeopardize any future discussion between themselves and Japan over the sovereignty of Okinawa. It is clear that Japan’s foreign policy and its regional concerns were inexorably tied to the overall strategy of the United States in East Asia during the Cold War. The United States would vigorously oppose any return to normal relations between Japan and its giant communist neighbours as part of its overall strategy of containment and isolation of China and the USSR. One of its main concerns was with keeping Japan, as potentially one of the leading economies in Asia, away from the grasp of the communists.

About the Author

- Paul Linus is an eminent online journalist who has been writing news, features and editorials on different websites from across the world for about a decade. He can be contacted at knowledgeherald@gmail.com

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