Secret deal with US over Dokdo
By Moon Ji-yong
The San Francisco Peace treaty, making the 48 signatories, including Japan and the U.S. the concerned states, officially ended World War II.
The treaty confined Japanese territories to four main islands and a few minor islands off the coast of Japan. Many of other territories which had fell victim to Japan’s expansionism in ignorance of each nation’s sovereignty were restored to its original status.
Dokdo (Liancourt Rocks), islets nestled in the East Sea, had been listed among the territories that Japan should renounce. However, in the final draft of the Peace Treaty, Dokdo was mysteriously absent, rendering the clause ambiguous as below.
Article 2 (a) “Japan, recognizing the independence of Korea, renounces all rights, titles, and claims to Korea, including the islands of Quelpart, Port Hamiliton and Dagelet.”
Behind the scene, Japan and the U.S. had been shaking hands throughout the course of this conspiracy. Japan aggressively lobbied the U.S. for inclusion of Dokdo into Japan’s territory in exchange for supporting the U.S. in using Dokdo as a bombing range.
After Japan surrendered in WW II, Dokdo was returned to Korea by Allied Powers in Potsdam and Cairo Declaration, judging that Japan should be expelled from all areas it occupied by force. Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) issued SCAPIN 677, 1033 in 1946.
Both explicitly excluded Dokdo from Japan’s territory and stated that Japan was not allowed to approach within 12 miles of Dokdo. From 1947 to 1949, the first five drafts of the Peace Treaty, declared Dokdo a Korean territory similar to what the allies had previously agreed.
However, Japanese Foreign Ministry had been appealing SCAP and the U.S. State Department in Washington over Japan’s sovereignty with a monogram entitled “Minor Islands Adjacent to Japan Proper,” which consists of devious distortion of truth.
In the process of Japan’s lobbying, William J. Sebald, the acting political advisor in Japan, played a critical role. He took a British-Japanese wife and had worked in Japan for about 20 years. His view towards Japan was unfailingly positive in his memoirs as below; “these patriotic Japanese were among our good friends.”
Based on Japan’s memorandum, he sent a note in favor of Japan to the Consultant to the U.S Secretary of State John Foster Dulles who largely shaped the drafts of the treaty.
Eventually, both the note unknown to Korea who was not a signatory to the Treaty, and support of Sebald made the U.S. change its position. Later drafts came to include Dokdo into Japan’s territory.
The British, after consulting with Commonwealth nations (Canada, Australia and New Zealand) asserted that Japanese territory should be defined as suggested in the Potsdam Declaration. However, the U.S. team dissuaded the British of this idea with fears that the plan that would bring “psychological disadvantages among Japanese harking back to punitive reparations on Germany for France after WW I.”
Arriving at a joint draft, Dokdo was neither included in Japan nor in Korea in the finalization of the treaty.
This begs a question: Why did the U.S. eventually keep a unilateral view to omit Dokdo in the last draft of the treaty despite Japan’s inaccurate historical evidence and disagreement by other nations?
Some tragic incidents and a considerable amount of correspondence show what lied in the shady deal. In the middle of concerns that the Cold War was beginning, Dokdo became an enticing point for bombing practice for American forces.
One of the actual trials was on June 8 of 1948; U.S. Air Force’s 93rd Bombardment Group dropped bombs on Dokdo using it as a bombing range, killing around 30 Korean fishermen. Survivors’ testimonies show they had not been informed of the dangers. Seven days later, U.S. forces were ordered to stop all bombing practice at Dokdo.
Bombing exercises were repeated several times until 1952, although this incident was the only one to create so many victims. Interestingly, whenever the U.S. bombed the islets and Koreans found out, public concerns arose, and the U.S. quickly ended the exercises, not wanting to rattle the Korean public.
About five months after the above incident, in the aforementioned Sebald’s letter, a real carrot for the U.S. was included as below;
“Security considerations might render the provision of weather and radar stations on these islands a matter of interest to the U.S.”
On Oct. 3, 1952, the First Secretary of the American Embassy in Tokyo, John, M, Steeves, wrote a Dispatch titled “Koreans on Liancourt Rocks.”
After reviewing a variety of evidence, he eventually acknowledged a Korean historical connection to Dokdo; however, keeping a neutral stance, he highlighted the pragmatic function of the islets.
“The history of these rocks has been reviewed more than once by the Departments, and does not need an extensive recounting here. The rocks were at one time part of the Kingdom of Korea.”
In conclusion, both Japan’s greedy lobbying and the U.S. military’s need for a bombing range caused Dokdo to be left out of the Peace Treaty.
The writer is a Korean student studying journalism and communication at Kyung Hee University in Seoul. He is currently doing his mandatory military duty. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.