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International Recogntion of Japan under International Law

 
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lordameth
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:27 pm    Post subject: International Recogntion of Japan under International Law Reply with quote
After a discussion today with a friend who's something of an expert in international law as it pertains to official international recognition of sovereign states, I thought you all might find this interesting.

It was not until 1903, apparently, that Japan was officially recognized by the international community as an independent sovereign state. I'm afraid I don't have the energy to read through it right now, but the actual wordings of the decisions made by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague on the matter, folded into a case on the "Japan House Tax", can be found at the Hague official website, here and here.

As my friend explained, since at this time Japan fully claimed Okinawa as a fully integrated part of its national territory, and since the Kingdom of Ryukyu was apparently never officially recognized as a sovereign state under international law, any arguments about the possibly illegal way in which Okinawa was annexed are essentially moot, from the point of view of international law. Furthermore, since Taiwan was under Japanese control at this time, and was, I suppose, therefore, never officially recognized under international law as belonging to the Qing Empire, its status post-1945, and post-1949 is a bit strange, and, I suppose, that means that international law officially cannot or does not recognize any claims to PRC sovereignty over the island.

Anyway. I bring this up not to stir up controversy over PRC/ROC stuff, or Okinawa stuff, but just to share that when viewed through the lens of the official position of what is recognized by international law, Japanese (and Okinawan and Taiwanese) history begin to look quite strange and interesting.

Also, for any of you out there who are skeptical about all of this, and are thinking that there are all kinds of validities to Japanese nation-state identity and sovereignty, and international recognition prior to 1903, I am with you. As a historian, and especially a cultural historian, I am fully behind the idea that facts on the ground can differ greatly from what the official international law view is. Questions of West-ocentrism, why should Japan not count as a state just because Britain and France haven't recognized them yet, etc etc.. and what about all those Treaties in the 1850s (Harris Treaty, etc), which apparently don't count because they didn't officially include the terms of recognizing Japan as a sovereign state... I am with you on all of that. Just sharing what my friend says is the official international law perspective.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 01, 2010 3:36 am    Post subject: Re: International Recogntion of Japan under International La Reply with quote
lordameth wrote:


It was not until 1903, apparently, that Japan was officially recognized by the international community as an independent sovereign state. I'm afraid I don't have the energy to read through it right now, but the actual wordings of the decisions made by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague on the matter, folded into a case on the "Japan House Tax", can be found at the Hague official website, here and here.

I do not see how you get that from these decisions.
"Whereas, in the terms of the Protocols signed at Tokyo on the 28th August, 1902, a dispute has arisen between the Government of Japan on the one side, and the Governments of Germany, France, and Great Britain on the other side, respecting the true intent and meaning of the following provisions of the Treaties and other engagements respectively existing between them, that is to say:"
The question was how to interpret treaties of 1894 and 1896 concerning property taxes on land that was originally part of foreign settlements.--whether just land or also buildings were exempt.

It is hard to interpret statements like these if Japan was not recognized as a sovereign state.

quote:
It is necessary to refer to various arrangements and Conventions arrived at between the Japanese authorities and the Representatives of various Powers, when the old Treaties were in force;

That the Japanese Government had consented to cooperate in the creation of foreign settlements in certain towns and ports of Japan open to the dependents of other nations;

That foreigners not being permitted, according to the principles of Japanese law, to acquire ownership of land situated in that country, the Government have leased land to them in perpetuity;

Whereas, in becoming a party to the said instruments the Government of Japan acted not only as proprietor of the land leased, but also as being invested with the sovereign power of the country;

(from the 2nd link)
Whereas, the Powers at variance, co-Signatories of the Convention [42] of The Hague for the peaceful adjustment of international differences, have resolved to terminate the controversy by referring the question at issue to impartial arbitration in accordance with the provisions of said Convention;

end quote

I simply do not see how Japan was not recognized.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 01, 2010 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Yeah. I was confused by the wording too. I didn't find anywhere in there that explicitly said that Japan is now, from now on, to be recognized as a sovereign state. The terminology simply isn't there.

But, I'm no legal expert, and my friend who is, says that that is when it happened.

Earlier treaties, such as the Harris Treaty in 1854, very intentionally did not include recognition of Japan as a sovereign state equal to any other.. The Western powers were playing a game of two-tiered international relations, where they only recognized one another, and not Asian countries, thus keeping Japan, China, Korea, and others in a lesser category of "country", or let's just say, "diplomatic partners", like the Native American tribes who also were not recognized as sovereign states when treaties were being made up with them.

I don't know where it says it in those Hague documents; I'm with you in that I don't really see it there. But my friend assures me that it was at this time, in 1903, that the International Community looked back and reassessed what had been going on and decided that Japan needed to be recognized as a state if diplomatic relations were to be had with it.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 01, 2010 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
As an international studies BA with a heavy emphasis on diplomatic history, I am confident in stating that Meth's friend is way wrong. The treaties signed between the western powers and the Bakufu during the Bakumatsu, recognized as the sole and legitimate government of Japan at the time, verifies that Japan was recognized ad an independent and sovereign state. To try to argue otherwise is just plain silly. Treaties signed between states transcends changes in government brought about by peaceful or violent means, so the Meiji government had the same treaty obligations as the Shogunate and did its best to uphold them or renegotiate them when needed. Recognition of the Meiji government by the western powers was pretty much done i868 so I am not even sure why this issue is an issue. It seems very clear to me and even kind of a common sense thingy.

**edited to fix the horrible spelling mistakes I made when I posted this from my cell phone while walking through the airport in Bangkok at the crack of dawn. The content has not been changed. I am Obenjo Kusanosuke and I approve of this post.
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Last edited by Obenjo Kusanosuke on Sat Oct 02, 2010 7:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 01, 2010 3:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Is this what Meth's friend was trying to say?: Japan was treated as an equal sovereign "Power" for the first time in 1902 in the protocol of a treaty dispute.

The "Award" section states Japan's position as "being invested with the sovereign power of the country;" at the time the treaties were made, and that does not seem to suggest that it was considered that Japan's sovereignty started in 1903.

It would be interesting to see some contrasting treaties, etc. from before.


But to say there was no international law in East Asia before 1903 or 1850 or 1610 (as the 己酉約条 Kiyû (1609) Agreement between Japan and Korea) or some other date seems strange.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I am totally with you both on the obnoxious and West-centric attitude that international law within East Asia (e.g. the systems of international law that held under a Chinese model; treaties between Japan and Korea, etc.) "doesn't count" or whatever.

I am just repeating what my friend has said, which is that in the eyes of the Western powers Unequal Treaties signed with Ryukyu, Korea, Japan, and other Asian nations, like those signed with Native American 'nations' for example, did not recognize these states as independent sovereign states of the same type or category, or the same level or status, as treaties the Western powers signed with one another.

And so, regardless of what obligations the Japanese government may have taken on, upheld, maintained, or sought to renegotiate... regardless, of how Japan saw itself in its relations with the Western powers, what I suppose Dr Vogeler is trying to emphasize is that the Western powers did not see their obligations towards Japan, Korea, or Ryukyu as being the same as those towards one another. Following the Treaty of Westphalia, France, Saxony, Brandenburg, Sweden, and the Dutch Republic all agreed to respect one another's sovereignty, and to respect certain rights or whatever that each sovereign state had. But, Dr Vogeler alleges, by not putting key phrases such as "we officially recognize you as an independent sovereign state with such-and-such inalienable rights" into the Unequal Treaties, the Western powers very consciously and intentionally did not afford Asian countries the same rights or recognition within their Western-based schema that they afforded one another.

According to Dr Vogeler, it was only in 1902 or 1903 that the international community looked back, and said, you know, if we want to continue having the kinds of relations with Japan that we've been having, we had to have implicitly recognized them as a state. So now we need to do it explicitly and officially. So, according to him, it did not come into place retroactively, but it did come about as the result of a sort of retroactive looking back and saying, if we've been trading with them, warring with them, having whatever interaction with House Taxes, then we needed to have recognized them ages ago. We didn't, so we're doing it now.

I think the really key point is to emphasize that this is (in his words), not a matter of 'normative views' - how it should be, how it ought to be, what makes sense - but 'positive views', i.e. that which actually was, in the eyes of the Western powers, and in the ways their laws worked at that time.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I wondered if this was really about the ‘Unequal Treaties” signed in the Bakumatsu, which the Meiji government struggled for years to change. It was one of the key aims of the Iwakura Mission, and Inoue Kaoru made it his chief concern when he was Foreign Minister. The two main stumbling blocks were the legal concept of extraterritoriality, which meant foreigners who had broken Japanese law had to be tried by their own government not by Japanese courts, and the interdiction against non-Japanese owning land or travelling and living freely anywhere in Japan. To get the first changed Inoue saw he would have to concede the second, but the Japanese themselves strongly resisted this idea, while foreigners were reluctant to give up extraterritoriality, fearing uncivilized and brutal punishment. The matter was further complicated by ‘most favoured nation’ agreements among the Western Powers. The ‘Unequal Treaties” were only revised after Japan’s victory over China in 1895, and extraterritoriality came to an end in 1899. See http://www.americanforeignrelations.com/E-N/Extraterritoriality-Japan.html
This is all probably over-simplified - not my area of expertise at all.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
To clarify this-- pre 1902, 1905ish, Japan was viewed as an independent sovereign nation. However, it was not viewed as an "equal" state, particularly by the western powers. Although after Japan's victory over the decrepit Qing Dynasty in 1905, Japan's reputation and status may have improved, it was still viewed unequally by the west up through the 1920s. This is illustrated in the arms reduction treaties after WWI that allowed the US and Britain to devote more tonnage to building capital warships while restricting Japan's. This was seen as huge embarrassment to the Japanese and one of the incidents that got the Japanese thinking they needed to go their "own" way outside of the international community, leading up to WWII.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 25, 2011 7:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
More precisely, Japan wasn't seen as a power which deserved to sit on the same table with other great powers until 1905, when they kicked the Russians' ass at Tsushima and Port Arthur. These victories caused an immense shock in Western medias and political circles, especially in France and Britain. France aimed to use the sheer size of the Russian army against Germany in case of a new Franco-German war. That a bunch of Asian ragtag natives, as they were perceived in Europe, could not only crush its numerically-superior army, but sink its dreadnoughts so easily only a few decades after being exposed to the West, forced them to review their appreciation of Japanese power and influence in Asia.

Until then, they were more or less a far-away version of Sweden or Belgium: respected, legally recognized, but nonetheless a second-rate power.
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