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Foreign Policy

Cairo Declaration: Legal Foundation for Asia-Pacific Order

Dec 07 , 2013
  • Liu Junhong

    Researcher, Chinese Institute of Contemporary Int'l Relations

These past few days, different activities have been held across the globe to mark the 70th anniversary of the Cairo Declaration, demonstrating people’s love for peace and respect for justice across the world.

On December 1, 1943, the leaders of China, the United States and the United Kingdom issued the Cairo Declaration, sounding the clarion call for the final victory of the world’s anti-fascist war on the Eastern battlefield. The Declaration expressed the determination to eliminate Japanese fascism and force Japan to return “all the territories which she has taken by violence and greed” in the Asia-Pacific region. The Declaration solidified the international legal status of China’s territorial integrity.

It was on the basis of the Cairo Declaration that the Allies issued the Potsdam Proclamation in 1945, announcing the end of the anti-fascism war and forcing Japan to unconditionally surrender. The Declaration was also the legal basis for “the terms of the Cairo Declaration (to) be carried out” and the post-war global peace mechanism to be established. The Declaration of War on Japan issued by the Chinese government on December 9, 1941 declared that “all treaties, agreements and contracts involving relationship between China and Japan shall be annulled.”

The Chinese Declaration of War on Japan, the Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Proclamation and the Yalta Agreement, together with the post-war trials of fascists, the court verdicts and the institutional arrangements, are major parts of the international relationship system and the “contemporary international law system” after World War II. They still retain their undisputable binding force.

Now, as the new century has entered its second decade, the US has launched a strategy of rebalancing to the Asia Pacific. The Japanese government, however, has taken provocative moves to stir up territorial disputes with neighboring countries in disregard of the world order established after the victory of the anti-fascist war. These moves have caused regional tensions and hampered other countries in the region in their pursuit of peace, stability, cooperation and development. The Japanese action is also a hindrance to the US’ rebalancing strategy.

In the territorial disputes, Japan’s arguments are erroneous both in historical and legal terms. On the one hand, Japan professes to be the first nation in Asia to have established a “100-year-long advantage in social system” thanks to its imperialist development after the Meiji Restoration, an attempt to whitewash its history of seizing other countries’ land by force and exercising colonial rule in Asia. On the other hand, it insists that the international law system after World War II is still the continuation of the “modern international law system” based on the Westphalia Peace Treaty. It refuses to recognize the establishment of the “contemporary international law system” based on the anti-fascist war and post-war world order. It argues that the “annexation” from colonial conquest is the only “source” of territorial sovereignty. Thereby, the Japanese government whipped up nationalist nostalgia domestically and launched “territorial” claims internationally. These rightist points of view on history and international law are against the idea of justice developed in the post-war world order and constitute a gross violation of the basic principles of the “contemporary international law system.”

Japan has gone farther and farther down the rightist road since Shinzo Abe returned to power. Abe reinstated a theory that he had tried to practice during his first term of office, namely to “return to the starting point after World War II and change the post-war system.” On the pretext of restoring Japanese nation’s sense of historical superiority and sense of culture, Abe suggested a revision of the country’s post-war pacifist constitution. He wanted to change Japan’s status as a political lame duck bound by the US and to “open a new period of international politics.”

In domestic administration, Abe indulges in totalitarianism and seeks dictatorial power as prime minister. He appointed many of his relatives, friends and offsprings of his father’s and grandfather’s friends to the vice-ministerial or administrative officer-level positions. These moves violated the democratic principle of “civil officials remaining politically neutral.” Abe’s recent promotion of the recently “national security guarantee conference” and “special secrets protection law” represents the totalitarian tendency in Japanese politics. They were criticized by Japan’s domestic media as a “denial of the public’s right to know” and a “resurrection” of the Taisei Yokusankai, or “Imperial Aid Association”, a para-fascist organization created by Japanese militarists before World War II.

On the issue of Asia, the Abe administration has adhered to the “Asia portal strategy,” which claims “Japan is the representative of Asia.” On the one hand, it pushes for an offensive encirclement against China; on the other, it uses the negotiations on TPP, US military base and joint defense policy to interfere in the US’ Asia-Pacific rebalance strategy so as to build a Japan-dominated “Asia institutional community” that excludes both China and the US and brings an end to the post-war Asian order.

Japan’s such viewpoints on history, international law and Asian issue obviously are not only a violation of the anti-fascist Cairo Declaration, Potsdam Proclamation and Yalta Agreement, but also in direct contravention of the contemporary international law. They run counter to common faith in peace and justice, and goes against the Asia-Pacific countries’ common interests, as well as Japanese people’s interests.

Liu Junhong is a Research fellow at the Chinese Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

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