Overcoming the San Francisco System - Wada Haruki

Prof. em. Dr. WADA Haruki, Tokyo
Tokyo Universität

Overcoming the San Francisco System: One Japanese Person’s View
Wada Haruki, with an introduction by Alexis Dudden
The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 17 | Issue 23 | Number 3 | Article ID 5331 | Dec 01, 2019

On November 8, 2019 in Seoul, Wada Haruki delivered this urgent call to peace. It is in many respects a summation of his life’s thinking, and APJ presents it as such.

As Northeast Asia confronts the stark choice between constructive peace and its cataclysmic opposite, nuclear war, Wada forcefully demands peace, well aware that his plan —like others in his career — is a “sheer product of imagination.” That said, his imagined ideas, springing from a lifelong commitment to a world without war, are more important than ever. Born in Tokyo in 1938, one of Professor Wada’s recent books includes reproduction of the eight year old elementary-school hand-writing practice of the Chinese character for “peace,” which he juxtaposes below now-retired Emperor Akihito’s similar calligraphy homework (older than Wada by five years). For their shared immediate post-1945 era, “peace” was the order of the day; some students like Wada and arguably the former emperor learned; others did not.

Wada continues to push his work against this divided background in Japanese society—or, in Northeast Asian regional society—and in this talk he brings a new and remarkably bold way of understanding the 1951 Treaty of Peace With Japan, known more commonly as the San Francisco Peace Treaty. He stresses that the treaty did not establish peace but instead created the foundation for ongoing war between the United States and what would become North Korea and also the People’s Republic of China as well as North Vietnam. In short, the “perimeter line” that Secretary of State Dean Acheson explained in his April 1950 speech would become hard reality by the terms of the treaty, and Wada, for his part, rejects this idea. Ever since, he has spent his life defining “peace” in contradistinction from the Pax Americana-state sanctioned understanding, and in this recent talk he boldly—albeit imaginatively—offers ideas for how to accomplish it.

This brief talk examines the San Francisco System—the geo-political order inaugurated in September 1951 in the combined terms of the San Francisco Treaty and the US-Japan Security Pact. The San Francisco System did not bring an end to war as many imagine; rather, it set the stage for war elsewhere—namely Korea. In short, the San Francisco System has provided the framework for the United States to continue fighting the Korean War indefinitely and has defined Japan’s place in this nexus. The system was strengthened during the Vietnam War, and only began to show signs of revision in 1972 with US-China reconciliation. The end of the Cold War brought US-Soviet reconciliation and the demise of the Soviet State Socialist system. Notwithstanding, an isolated Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) remained in confrontation within the framework of the San Francisco System and has developed its own nuclear weapons. By the end of 2017, North Korea and the United States were on the brink of war. A dramatic change then took place: the Singapore Summit between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un opened a peace process, which ultimately could dismantle the San Francisco System. In the long run, I believe that a Northeast Asia community model will replace the San Francisco System.

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