Mr. Matsumura Masahiro, a professor of international politics from St. Andrew's University in Osaka, Japan, recently wrote a peculiar essay entitled “From San Francisco to the South China Sea”. Obviously quite satisfied with those self-styled novel opinions expressed in his article, the author has a kind of confidence in its sensational effect among mass media. To him, as he foretold in his essay, the only possible reason for the silence of the Chinese government is “a reflection of a dearth of international legal expertise in this field”.
The logic of the article is just a muddle, but one opinion is clearly expressed, which is probably the main purpose of the author’s writing. Professor Matsumura declared that in Art.2 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, Japan renounced its sovereignty claims over the Nansha(Spratly) Islands and the Xisha(Paracel) Islands without reassigning them to any single country, thus, these islands remain legally under the collective custody of the other 48 state parties to the treaty, including the Philippines and Vietnam. Here somebody needs to tell Mr. Matsumura that Vietnam once made an announcement denouncing the San Francisco Peace Treaty.
It is not easy to comprehend the article, not because the author is learned in “international legal expertise”, but because some of his opinions have exceeded the sphere of common sense. Professor Matsumura seems to believe that Japan, as a defeated aggressor, was entitled to bestow the new legal status of terra nullius upon Manchuria, Taiwan, the Pescadores, the Spratly and the Paracel Islands and all the other territories “stolen” from China, instead of returning them to China, the original owner, as required by the Cairo Declaration, Potsdam Proclamation and Japan's Instrument of Surrender. Where did Japan get such a right to “reassign” the territories stolen from China as a result of its aggression? If the Spratly and the Paracel Islands should be put under the so-called collective custody, what about the Kurile Islands, Sakhalin and the islands adjacent to it? Well, in Art. 2 of the same Treaty, “Japan renounced all right, title and claim to the Kurile Islands, and to that portion of Sakhalin and the islands adjacent to it” without reassigning them to any single country either.
In his article, Mr. Matsumura did not mention a word about the 1943 Cairo Delcaration, the 1945 Potsdam Proclamation as well as the 1945 Japanese Instrument of Surrender. According to the abovementioned three international documents, the legal status and future fate of "all the territories that Japan has stolen from the Chinese" were clear and certain: they shall all be restored to China.
As a matter of fact, China retrieved its once lost territories Taiwan and the Pescadores in Oct. 1945, and the Spratly and the Paracel Islands in 1946. China’s measures of restoration met no objection from any country. The above historical context shows that 6 years before the conclusion of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, the legal status of Taiwan, the Pescadores, the Spratly and the Paracel Islands as the territories of China had been clear and beyond doubt. San Francisco Peace Treaty only reconfirmed the postwar order laid down by the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation, rather than changing it. Under the San Francisco Peace Treaty, Japan was only obliged to renounce all rights, titles and claims over territories it grabbed through aggression and was not, in any sense, entitled to “reassign” them.
Another staggering opinion the author introduced in his article is that “Japan did not recognize Taiwan as a part of China, on the grounds that doing so would infringe on its obligations under the San Francisco Peace Treaty”. But the question is: Is there any article in the Treaty denying Taiwan being a part of China? There is of course no such imaginary article existing in the treaty. Furthermore, according to the generally accepted principle of Pacta Tertiis Nec Nocent Nec Prosunt, a treaty does not create either obligations or rights for a third State without its consent, let alone the disposition of the territories belonging to a third State.
Professor Matsumura also twisted around the wording of the 1972 Sino-Japanese Joint Statement, where he asserted that Japan only fully “understood” and “respected” the People's Republic of China's position that Taiwan is an "inalienable" part of its territory, but did not “recognize” the claim. As mentioned above, Taiwan has been back to China both legally and factually since 0ct. 1945. This kind of word game can only lead to a paradox: should the Japanese government publicly state that Taiwan is not an “inalienable” part of China, the basis of Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations would no longer exist, since such a position breaches the three fundamental principles for the restoration of relations in the 1972 Sino-Japanese Joint Statement.
The author’s third point is the most entangled and self-contradictory one. On the one hand, Professor Matsumura cited Art.2 of the 1972 Sino-Japanese Joint Statement under which the Japanese government ceased to recognize China's previous regime-the Government of the Republic of China (ROC) and instead Government of Japan recognizes the Government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China. Matsumura thus claimed that the new government should inherit its predecessor's rights and obligations under the 1952 Japan-ROC Peace Treaty. On the other hand, he denied that Taiwan is a part of China, even though it was the seat of the ROC government, which was then recognized by Japan as the legitimate government of China. Professor Matsumura is really puzzling his readers by all these peculiar ideas and opinions.
Professor Matsumura of course could not explain why Japan needed to reconfirm in the 1952 Japan-ROC Peace Treaty that it specifically “renounces all rights, titles and claims to Taiwan, the Pescadores, the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands”, if these were not territories of China. Nor did he mention about whether “the Kurile Islands, Sakhalin and the islands adjacent to it” should also remain in the collective custody of the 48 state parties to the San Francisco Peace Treaty.
Professor Matsumura’s claim that China's Nansha and Xisha Islands remain under the collective custody of the 48 state parties reminds us of the scene at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, where the western powers conspired about the disposition of Germany's concessions in Shandong Peninsular of China, which was also one of the Allied victors. Such a claim is obviously unjustifiable and even ridiculous in today's world. In fact, state parties to the San Francisco Peace Treaty need to review whether or not the enforcement of Art.3 of the Treaty goes against the provisions in the Treaty itself, and whether or not the Treaty's provisions related to territory disposition and their enforcement are in conformity with the Japanese surrender terms in the Potsdam Proclamation.
（China Daily, 2013-12-21, The author is an associate professor at China Foreign Affairs University）