【PART 4】 The Mystery of Security Treaty Village (2): The UN Charter and the Postwar World


In addition to Emperor Showa and the Constitution of Japan, there is another essential thing to take into account when considering the history of postwar Japan (or in other words, the Security Treaty Village). Can you guess what it is?

It’s the fact that Japan was defeated in World War II.

You might think, “Of course I know that. What are you getting at?” But actually, we Japanese don’t really grasp what this defeat means. It’s because Japan was always on the victorious side in the Cold War (a war of ideology that started immediately afterwards). This was possible because Japan was under American protection.

The defeat in World War II meant the downfall of Japan to the very bottom. However, after the war, Japan rigorously stuck to the policy of slavish obedience to the U.S., militarily and diplomatically. This made it possible for Japan to rapidly climb up from being a defeated country in World War II — the very bottom — to being a victorious country in the Cold War with the second largest economy in the world.


【1】 Two meanings of the “United Nations”


However, it turned out that the Cold War was a mere phase in the larger framework of the post-World War II world. This fact gradually became clear after 1989, the year of the death of Emperor Showa and the end of the Cold War.

The Sino-American rapprochement is a major example.

Let me illustrate my point. When China criticizes Japan about the Senkaku Islands at a UN General Assembly, they say something like this: “The Japanese government’s purchase of the Senkaku Islands is an outright denial of the victory in the world war against fascism. It also challenges international order and the UN Charter.” (Yang Jiechi, then Foreign Minister of China) This statement makes no sense to us Japanese. However, it would make perfect sense to anyone else.

Why is it incomprehensible just to us Japanese? It’s because of a trick involving translation. In Japanese, there are two translations of the “United Nations”: kokusai rengo and rengo-koku. The former refers to the international association that we see today, and the latter refers to the United Nations during the Second World War, often referred to as the Allies. As far as I know, Japan and South Korea are the only two countries in the world with two translations for this term.In the UN, China is one of the Big Five, with veto power. In the Chinese version of the UN Charter, which is one of its official versions, it clearly refers to this charter using Chinese Characters that mean rengo-koku (the Allied Powers).

In other words, the essence of the UN is still an alliance between the victors of the Second World War, and its framework was maintained even during the Cold War. And China, being a permanent member of the Security Council with veto power, holds a privileged position in this alliance.

On the other hand, according to postwar international law, Japan is still in the lowest rank, labelled as being an “enemy country.” This is a well-known fact outside Japan.