Treaty of Peace with Japan Is Signed in San Francisco Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Allied Powers signed the official peace treaty with Japan, ending World War II in Asia and the Pacific. The treaty reintegrated Japan into the community of nations.

Summary of Event

On September 8, 1951, delegates from the United States, Japan, and forty-six other nations met in San Francisco and signed the Treaty of Peace with Japan. World War II had ended in August, 1945, after the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, Cold War concerns and fears of renewed Japanese aggression against developing nations delayed the writing of the official peace treaty. World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];Japanese Peace Treaty Japanese Peace Treaty (1951) San Francisco, Treaty of (1951) [kw]Treaty of Peace with Japan Is Signed in San Francisco (Sept. 8, 1951) [kw]Peace with Japan Is Signed in San Francisco, Treaty of (Sept. 8, 1951) [kw]Japan Is Signed in San Francisco, Treaty of Peace with (Sept. 8, 1951) [kw]San Francisco, Treaty of Peace with Japan Is Signed in (Sept. 8, 1951) World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];Japanese Peace Treaty Japanese Peace Treaty (1951) San Francisco, Treaty of (1951) [g]North America;Sept. 8, 1951: Treaty of Peace with Japan Is Signed in San Francisco[03560] [g]Asia;Sept. 8, 1951: Treaty of Peace with Japan Is Signed in San Francisco[03560] [g]Japan;Sept. 8, 1951: Treaty of Peace with Japan Is Signed in San Francisco[03560] [g]United States;Sept. 8, 1951: Treaty of Peace with Japan Is Signed in San Francisco[03560] [c]World War II;Sept. 8, 1951: Treaty of Peace with Japan Is Signed in San Francisco[03560] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Sept. 8, 1951: Treaty of Peace with Japan Is Signed in San Francisco[03560] [c]Cold War;Sept. 8, 1951: Treaty of Peace with Japan Is Signed in San Francisco[03560] Dulles, John Foster [p]Dulles, John Foster;Japanese Peace Treaty MacArthur, Douglas [p]MacArthur, Douglas;governorship of Japan Yoshida, Shigeru

In August, 1945, the United States began a military occupation Japan;postwar occupation of Japan; General of the Army Douglas MacArthur oversaw the occupation force as the governor of Japan. During the occupation, MacArthur’s staff wrote a new Japanese constitution that permanently disarmed Japan, so it would never again become a military power, and MacArthur instituted liberal reforms designed to democratize the country. Had the peace treaty with Japan been written during this period, its terms would most likely have been rather harsh, but the Japanese treaty initially progressed slowly. Despite being allied in World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union had divergent views on how to treat postwar Japan. Furthermore, the postwar division of Germany between various occupying powers demonstrated the possible problems with a Japanese peace treaty written to satisfy the conflicting requirements of both the Americans and the Soviets.

Writing a peace treaty could not be delayed perpetually, and when Mao Zedong won the Chinese Civil War and declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, Asia rapidly turned into a focal point for U.S. foreign policy. With China’s adoption of communism, the Harry S. Truman Truman, Harry S. [p]Truman, Harry S.;Cold War administration came to view Japan as a potential stabilizing force in Asia and made plans to keep Japan’s industrial potential free from Soviet influence. A continued occupation of Japan seemed counterproductive to that goal, and the Truman administration began placing more importance on drafting a peace treaty.

The United States primarily sought to use the peace treaty as a means of ensuring an anticommunist orientation in Japan, an orientation that it hoped would deny Japanese trade to the Soviet Union. Cold War;Japan In order to ensure success, American leaders believed, the peace treaty could not be punitive and had to allow Japan the ability to reestablish its industrial base. American planners also believed that Japan needed to rearm after the treaty was signed, so its military strength could help offset communist power in the region. With these goals in mind, Truman appointed John Foster Dulles as special consultant to the secretary of state in charge of helping create a Japanese peace treaty on April 6, 1950.

Dulles arrived in Japan in late June, 1950. The week of his arrival, North Korea invaded South Korea, thereby starting the Korean War. The outbreak of the war caused Dulles to believe that rearming Japan was one of the most important aspects of the peace treaty negotiations. He believed that the Japanese would readily accept rearmament, Japan;refusal to rearm but when Dulles began meeting with Japanese prime minister Shigeru Yoshida, he quickly learned this was not the case.

The United States envisioned a massive rearmament that would give Japan a significant defensive and offensive capability. This force would include a large army, a substantial navy, and a modern air force. Yoshida, on the other hand, merely wanted a strong security force. He saw the need for a few small ships to patrol Japan’s coastal waters and a small air force to provide for a modicum of self-defense, but he could not envision the Japanese people rebuilding a large modern military. Dulles attempted to persuade Yoshida that Japan had a right to a substantial defensive force, but the prime minister argued that the Japanese people had had their fill of war and militarism. Dulles never managed to reverse Yoshida’s position, and the peace treaty did not rearm Japan.

Trade Trade restrictions was another aspect of the treaty discussions. The Americans feared that an open economic relationship between communist China and Japan would lead to the communist subversion of Japan, and the Truman administration threatened to deny the United States’ good will if Japan instituted trade with Red China. Dulles could not force rearmament, but he did compel Japan to restrict its Chinese trade. Yoshida grudgingly complied with the trade restrictions, because Dulles told him the Senate would veto the peace treaty without such protections in place.

After working out most of the principal details with Japan, Dulles traveled to many other nations in the region to receive their input on the treaty. Dulles found leaders in these nations reluctant to support the lenient treaty the United States favored, so the United States agreed to enter into mutual security treaties with Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines to ensure their support of the American version of the peace treaty. Additionally, Dulles negotiated a security treaty with Japan, since he could not convince Yoshida of the necessity of rearmament.

With drafts of the peace and security treaties in place, the United States hosted the San Francisco Peace Conference in September, 1951. Forty-eight nations attended the conference for the treaty signing, but the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and the Republic of China (Taiwan) did not attend. The Soviet Union refused to accept the treaty, and the United States had not invited the governments of China or Taiwan. Communist China was not invited because the United States refused to accept its government as legitimate, and participation by the Nationalist Chinese government on Taiwan would have been too controversial at the time.

In the treaty, Japan renounced its sovereignty over most of the territories it had acquired before and during World War II. These included Sakhalin, Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria, Hong Kong, the Kuril Islands, P’eng-hu (the Pescadores), and the Spratly Islands. While the treaty stipulated that Japan no longer controlled these areas, it did not specify who did. Japan also agreed to accept all judgments of the International Military Tribunal of the Far East, which tried war criminals. Finally, Japan agreed to negotiate separate treaties with those former enemies who desired reparations payments not specified in the peace treaty.


Due to the trade restrictions enacted in the Treaty of San Francisco, Japan had significantly less trade with the People’s Republic of China than with Western Europe. However, the restrictions were lifted when the United States began to normalize relations with China during the Richard M. Nixon administration. Despite this lost trade, however, the leniency of the treaty, coupled with its savings on defense expenditures, allowed Japan to reindustrialize rapidly and to rebuild its infrastructure so that it became one of the leading world economic powers by the 1960’s. Taiwan concluded separate peace arrangements and signed the Treaty of Taipei with Japan in 1952. However, the lack of a treaty with the Soviet Union or the People’s Republic of China, coupled with ambiguity in the Treaty of San Francisco concerning disposition of Japanese territories, led to disputes with Russia over the sovereignty of the Kuril Islands and disputes with China over the ownership of the Senkaku Islands. Japan concluded its treaty obligations when it made its last reparations payment to the Philippines in 1976. World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];Japanese Peace Treaty Japanese Peace Treaty (1951) San Francisco, Treaty of (1951)

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Buckley, Roger. The United States in the Asia-Pacific Since 1945. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. An overview of American relations with East Asia since the end of World War II that puts the Japanese Peace Treaty into context. The work examines such themes as Asian concerns about colonialism and the American fear of communism.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Dower, John W. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. New York: W. W. Norton, 2000. Pulitzer Prize-winning account of postwar Japan and the American occupation. Particularly helpful in portraying the differences between Japanese and American cultures during this period.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Immerman, Richard. John Foster Dulles: Piety, Pragmatism, and Power in U.S. Foreign Policy. Wilmington, Del.: SR Books, 1999. Brief biography of Dulles that touches on the role he played in negotiating the Japanese Peace Treaty and compares his work on the peace treaty to his foreign policy positions as secretary of state.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Yoshitsu, Michael. Japan and the San Francisco Peace Settlement. New York: Columbia University Press, 1983. Based on Japanese-language sources, this work gives a good glimpse at Yoshida’s goals for Japan’s future when negotiating the peace treaty.

Nationalist Chinese Forces Battle Communists as Japan Advances

Atomic Bombs Destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Japanese General Yamashita Is Convicted of War Crimes

Japan Becomes a Constitutional Democracy

Japanese Constitution Grants New Rights to Women

Mao Zedong Proclaims a Communist People’s Republic in China

Korean War

Categories: History