Accepting the post-war international order established by the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Declaration and complying with its pacifist Constitution, Japan embarked on the road to peaceful development after surrendering to the Allied forces in 1945.
Of late, however, Japanese right-wing forces have been trying to remove the military restraints imposed on Japan by its Constitution and change the international order. This rightist political tendency has become more obvious since December 2012, when Shinzo Abe was sworn in as Japan's prime minister for the second time.
On July 26, 1945, China, the United States and Great Britain jointly issued the Potsdam Declaration, which was later ratified by the erstwhile Soviet Union, urging Japan to surrender unconditionally. Japanese emperor Hirohito accepted the declaration on August 14 and Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allied forces the next day.
In the document of surrender signed on Sept 2, 1945, Japan said: "The Japanese emperor, government and their successors will accept the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration."
The Potsdam Declaration says the forces that misled Japanese people into believing that they would conquer the world must be permanently eliminated and Japanese war criminals punished. And Japan is legally bound to follow the post-war international order that developed from the Potsdam Declaration.
In the Sino-Japanese Joint Statement signed in 1972, the Japanese government said, "the Japan state deeply feels its responsibilities for the considerable damage caused by the warfare it staged to Chinese people and expresses profound self-reflections over this."
In a joint statement signed with China in 1998, the Japanese government accepted that "to face squarely up to the past and look at the history with a correct attitude serve as an important foundation for Sino-Japanese relations". Japan also said that it will "comply with the 1972 Sino-Japanese Joint Statement and the remarks made by the prime minister on Aug 15, 1995 (it) keenly feels the enormous disasters caused by its aggressive war to Chinese people and its responsibilities (and) expresses profound self-reflections over this".
But in recent years, many Japanese politicians have violated the country's solemn commitments. The visits by Abe and other Japanese politicians to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals, and their denial of the Tokyo Trials' verdicts against those criminals contravene the Potsdam Declaration and violate Japan's commitment to the international community. They are also a breach of Japan's principle to keep politics and religion apart.
How would the international community have reacted if post-war German leaders denied the validity of the Nuremberg Trials and paid respects to Adolf Hitler? Certainly, with outrage and disgust.
The Potsdam Declaration is explicit on the territory of post-war Japan. Article 8 of the declaration stipulates that the "terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine". The Cairo Declaration, issued jointly by the US, Great Britain and China on December 1, 1943, says: "Japan shall restore all the territories it has stolen from China, such as Manchuria, Taiwan and Peng-hu islands, to China." The Diaoyu Islands, which Japan has been claiming as its territory, was then a part of Taiwan, which is an integral part of China.
In the 1972 Sino-Japanese Joint Statement, China reiterated its stance that Taiwan is an inalienable part of its territory, and Japan said it fully understood the Chinese government's stance and would comply with Article 8 of the Potsdam Declaration.
In October 1972, Ohira Masayoshi, then Japanese foreign minister and prime minister from 1978 to 1980, told his country's parliament that Japan, bound by the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Declaration, should return the Diaoyu Islands to China, which he emphasized should be an unchangeable position of the Japanese government.
Article 98 of Japan's Constitution says the Constitution is the supreme national law and any laws, orders, mandates and related government actions that contravene it will be invalid. It also says that Japan will abide by all the treaties it has signed as well as all the established international laws and regulations. Therefore, according to both international and domestic laws, Japan must return the Diaoyu Islands to China, and all its domestic policies and measures that violate its Constitution should be regarded as null and void.
After the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, Japan forced the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) government to sign the unequal Treaty of Shimonoseki, under which it annexed Taiwan and its affiliated islands. After World War II, Japan regained its control over the islands by taking advantage of the separatist elements across the Taiwan Straits and the US' trusteeship of the Ryukyu Islands, which has been strongly opposed by China. However, China and Japan decided to shelve the Diaoyu Islands dispute in the 1970s in their effort to normalize bilateral relations and sign a friendship treaty.
Today, the Japanese government recognizes neither the territorial dispute nor the agreement it once reached with China to "shelve the dispute" over the Diaoyu Islands, and thus refuses to hold dialogue with China on the issue.
Former prime minister Yoshihiko Noda's government intensified tensions between China and Japan by "nationalizing" some of the Diaoyu Islands. Now, the Abe government is strengthening its defense forces and trying to drag the US into its confrontation with China.
To put paid to Abe's evil designs, the international community should compel Japan to continue complying with the post-war international order established by the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Declaration.
The author is deputy director of the Institute of Modern International Relations, Tsinghua University
(Source: China Daily)