Harry S. Truman photo

Address in San Francisco at the Opening of the Conference on the Japanese Peace Treaty.

September 04, 1951

Mr. Secretary, Governor Warren, Mr. May or, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests:

I am glad to welcome you to this conference for the signing of the treaty of peace with Japan. The people of the United States are honored to serve as hosts for this meeting.

Six years ago the nations represented at this Conference were engaged in a bitter and costly war. Nevertheless, these nations and others came together here, in this very hall, to set up the United Nations as the first essential step toward a firm and lasting peace.

Today we meet here again to take another step along the road to peace. On this occasion it is our purpose to conclude a treaty of peace with a country we were fighting in 1945. We meet to restore our former enemy to the community of peaceful nations.

The treaty we are gathered here to sign has not been drawn in a spirit of revenge. The treaty reflects the spirit in which we carried on the war. The principles for which we fought were clearly set forth by President Franklin D. Roosevelt right after Pearl Harbor. On December 9, 1941, in a broadcast to the American people, he said:

"When we resort to force, as now we must, we are determined that this force shall be directed toward ultimate good as well as against immediate evil .... We are now in the midst of a war, not for conquest, not for vengeance, but for a world in which this nation, and all that this nation represents, will be safe for our children."

That is our purpose here today as we gather to sign the peace treaty. We are trying to build a world in which the children of all nations can live together in peace. We hope we are attaining the ultimate good to which President Roosevelt referred.

Unfortunately, today, the world is faced with new threats of aggression. Many of the countries represented here are now engaged in a hard fight to uphold the United Nations against international lawbreaking. There are thugs among nations, just as among individuals. But we have not forgotten that our goal is peace. We will not let the present conflict deter us from taking every step we can toward peace. We will not let that happen now, any more than we let the existence of war in 1945 hold up our efforts for the creation of the United Nations.

The people of all our countries long for one thing above all else, and they are determined to have it. What they want is a world at peace--a world where there is justice and freedom for all men and all nations. Our people demand of us that we take every possible measure to reach that goal.

We who stand ready to sign this treaty with Japan believe in peace. We believe in peace based on freedom and international justice. We know that a free and independent people have more vigor and staying power, and can do more to help secure the peace, than a people held under alien control. We believe that the whole great effort for peace will be strengthened if Japan is now restored to independence and linked to other free nations by ties of mutual friendship and responsibility.

Since the fighting ended in 1945, Japan has been an occupied country. The occupation was designed by the wartime Allies to prevent future Japanese aggression, and to establish Japan as a peaceful and democratic country, prepared to return to the family of nations.

The United States, as the principal occupying power, was given a special responsibility to carry out these objectives. It is our judgment that they have been achieved.

I wish on this occasion to express the pride that my countrymen and I feel in the way in which the Allied occupation has been carried out. Its success has been due to the devoted efforts of many thousands of people serving under the outstanding leadership of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur and his able successor, General Matthew Ridgway.

I would also like to pay tribute to the impressive effort put forward by the people of Japan in this period. They have fully complied with the surrender terms. They have cooperated fully in carrying out the purposes of the occupation.

The result has been a remarkable and unprecedented period of progress in Japanese history. Japan today is a very different country from what it was 6 years ago.

The old militarism has been swept away. This has been done not just by occupation edict, but by the overwhelming will of the Japanese people themselves.

The secret police and the police-state methods used by the former government have been abolished.

The new Japanese constitution provides a bill of rights for all citizens and establishes a government truly representative of the people.

The Japanese people now have universal suffrage, and they are taking a vigorous part in their government. In recent local elections more than 90 percent of those eligible have voted. I wish that same percentage would obtain in the United States.

Japanese women now vote and take part in the government, and enjoy full democratic rights for the first time.

Free and independent labor unions have been established, and farm cooperatives have been greatly expanded.

The monopolies that used to have such a stranglehold on the Japanese economy have been substantially broken up.

Remarkable progress has been made in land reform. Over 5 million acres of land have been purchased from the old landlords and sold to working farmers. Today about 90 percent of all the cultivated land belongs to those who work on it--and that means freedom and liberty. That compares with less than 50 percent in 1945. This is a great achievement, full of meaning for all Asia.

Through these and other reforms the Japanese people have been developing a stable economy and a democratic society. They still have a long way to go, but they are well on the road to building a new Japan--dedicated to the arts of peace and the well-being of the people.

Because of these accomplishments, it is possible at this time to restore full sovereignty to the Japanese people.

This does not mean that the slate has been wiped clean. The United States has not forgotten Pearl Harbor and Bataan, and many of the other nations represented here have similar memories that will not be easily erased. The new Japan will not find the world entirely friendly and trusting. It will have to keep on working to win the friendship and trust of other peoples over the years to come.

But the foundations for a peaceful future have been laid. It is now time to move ahead with the restoration of normal relations between Japan and the rest of the world.

This conference is the result of a year of cooperative effort toward that end.

A year ago this month, at my request, Mr. John Foster Dulles began to consult with other governments about a treaty of peace with Japan. Mr. Dulles has performed this task faithfully and well, guided by the highest traditions of statesmanship.

There were, of course, differences of opinion among the nations concerned as to many of the matters covered by this treaty. The text of the treaty now before us is the product of long and patient negotiations, among the nations, which were undertaken to reconcile these differences.

I think it is fair to say that it is a good treaty. It takes account of the principal desires and ultimate interests of all the participants. It is fair to both victor and vanquished.

But more than that, it is a treaty that will work. It does not contain the seeds of another war. It is a treaty of reconciliation, which looks to the future, and not to the past.

The treaty reestablishes Japan as a sovereign, independent nation. It provides for the restoration of Japanese trade with other nations, and it imposes no restrictions upon Japan's access to raw materials.

The treaty recognizes the principle that Japan should make reparations to the countries which suffered from its aggression. But it does not saddle the Japanese people with a hopeless burden of reparations which would crush their economy in the years to Come.

In all these respects the treaty takes account of the peaceful advances the Japanese people have made in recent years, and seeks to establish the conditions for further progress. However, there is one thing we must all recognize. There can be no progress unless the Japanese people and their neighbors in the Pacific are made secure against the threat of aggression.

At the present time the Pacific area is gravely affected by outright aggression and by the threat of further armed attack. One of our primary concerns in making peace with Japan, therefore, is to make Japan secure against aggression and to provide that Japan, in its turn, will so conduct itself as not to endanger the security of other nations. To accomplish this it is important to bring Japan under the principles of the United Nations, and within the protection of the mutual obligation of the United Nations members.

The treaty expresses Japan's intention to apply for membership in the United Nations. The other countries who sign the treaty can be counted on to work for the admission of Japan to membership. But even so, there may be delays before Japan can be admitted.

Under the treaty, therefore, the Japanese people bind themselves to accept immediately the basic obligations of a United Nations member--namely, to refrain from aggression, to settle disputes peacefully, and to support the efforts of the United Nations to maintain peace. At the same time the other nations who sign the treaty specifically recognize that Japan is entitled to the protection of the United Nations Charter.

In a sense these provisions are the heart of the treaty. Under them Japan becomes a part of the community of nations pledged to outlaw aggression and to support a world order based on justice.

This tying together of the Japanese peace treaty and the United Nations Charter is a long step toward building security in the Pacific. But more than this is needed.

In the present world situation it has been necessary to buttress the peaceful principles of the United Nations Charter with regional arrangements for the common defense against aggression. If real security is to be attained in the Pacific, the free nations in that area must find means to work together for the common defense.

The United States recognizes that fact. Our people have suffered from past aggression in the Pacific and are determined that this country shall do its part for peace in that locality. In recent days we have joined with other Pacific nations in important mutual security agreements.

Last Thursday the Philippines and the United States signed a treaty of mutual defense. Under this treaty each country recognizes that an armed attack on the other in the pacific area would be dangerous to its own peace and safety, and declares that it would act to meet the common danger.

Last Saturday a similar security treaty was signed by Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

These treaties are initial steps toward the consolidation of peace in the Pacific.

It is vital that Japan be included, as soon as possible, in appropriate security arrangements for keeping the peace in the Pacific. This is necessary for her own protection, and the protection of other countries.

The peace treaty, therefore, recognizes that Japan, as a sovereign nation, must possess the right of self-defense and the right to join in defense arrangements with other countries under the United Nations Charter.

The development of regional arrangements for defense in the Pacific will mean that such Japanese defense forces as may be created would be associated with the defense forces of other nations in that area. Japan's security would not depend exclusively on Japanese forces but on interrelated security arrangements with other countries. The Japanese contribution, by itself, would not constitute an offensive threat. But Japanese forces, together with the forces of other nations, would provide mutual security against threats to the independence of the nations of the Pacific, including Japan.

At present, of course, Japan is totally unarmed. In view of the open aggression taking place near Japan, the Japanese Government has requested the United States to enter into a bilateral treaty for Japan's immediate security. Under such a treaty, the United States would maintain armed forces in Japan for the time being as a contribution to international peace and to Japan's defense against attack.

Security arrangements are essential in a world in danger. In the Pacific as in other parts of the world, social and economic progress is impossible unless there is a shield which protects men from the paralysis of fear.

But our great goal, our major purpose, is not just to build bigger and stronger shields. What we want to do is to advance, as rapidly as we can, the great constructive tasks of human progress.

We in the United States respect and support the many new free and independent nations in the Pacific area and in Asia.

We want to see them grow and prosper as equal partners in the community of independent nations of both East and West. We want to cooperate with them, to help them in their agricultural and industrial development. We wish to see these nations attain in dignity and freedom a better life for their peoples--for that is the road to world peace.

These countries have a rich historical and cultural heritage. Today their people are experiencing great economic and social changes. They are stirred by a new zeal for progress and independence. Already we have seen some of the progress that can be made--progress in stamping out malaria, in building schools and training teachers, in growing more food and creating new industries. Immense opportunities lie ahead if these countries can pursue their national destinies in a partnership of peace, free from the fear of aggression.

Under this peace treaty, we believe that Japan can and will join in this partnership of peace.

We look forward to the contribution which the new Japan, with its rich culture and its dedication to peace, can bring to the community of nations. We expect this contribution to grow over the years, for the signing of a peace treaty is but one part of the process of making peace. When aggression and war have severed relations between nations, many ties which bind one nation to the others are cut. Making peace is like repairing the many strands of an intercontinental cable; each strand must be spliced separately and patiently, until the full flow of communication has been restored.

There is no other way to bring about lasting peace than this slow and patient process, step by step, of mending and strengthening the cables of communication and of understanding between nations.

In this San Francisco Conference, we have the opportunity to take one vital step toward lasting peace. Our specific task here is to conclude the treaty of peace with Japan. This will be a great step toward general peace in the Pacific.

There are other steps which need to be taken. The most important of these is the restoration of peace and security in Korea. With Japan returned to its place in the family of nations, and with the people of Korea secure, free, and united, it should be possible to find ways to settle other problems in the Pacific which now threaten the peace.

The United States has made dear on many occasions its desire to explore with other governments at the proper time and in the proper forum how this might be accomplished.

There are many well established ways in which next steps can be explored, if there is a genuine desire for peace in all quarters.

But these are not matters which can be dealt with in this present conference. We have come here to take a single step--but a step of utmost importance.

The treaty now before us offers more than talk of peace; it offers action for peace. This conference will show, therefore, who seeks to make peace, and who seeks to prevent it; who wishes to put an end to war, and who wishes to continue it.

We believe this treaty will have the support of all those nations that honestly desire to reduce the tensions which now grip the world.

I pray that we shall all be united in taking this step to advance us toward greater harmony and understanding.

As we approach the peace table, let us be free of malice and hate, to the end that from here on there shall be neither victors nor vanquished among us, but only equals in the partnership of peace.

Note: The President spoke at 7:30 p.m. at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. His opening words referred to Secretary of State Dean Acheson, Governor Earl Warren of California, and Mayor E. E. Robinson of San Francisco. The address was broadcast and televised.

The Multilateral Treaty of Peace with Japan was signed at San Francisco on September 8, 1951. It was favorably considered by the Senate on March 20, 1952, and after ratification entered into force on April 28, 1952. It was proclaimed by the President on April 28, 1952.

The text of the treaty is printed in United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (3 UST 3169).

Harry S Truman, Address in San Francisco at the Opening of the Conference on the Japanese Peace Treaty. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230725

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