I began accumulating somewhat more organized memories regarding politics much later. At any rate, in the days when my earliest political memories had begun to form, the reformist camp still had some vigor. Moreover, during the Upper House election in the summer of my last year in junior high school, Japan was in the midst of a so-called “Madonna Boom” led by iconic female politician Takako Doi.
Writing papers is a hard task, and it makes one realize their limits. Through doing so, I came to consider what my strengths were, and ultimately settled on believing that I was born in a unique era. I was fortunate enough to have memories of living in the time when the conflict between the two great conservative and progressive political powers, though waning, still managed to possess a slight fervor. To make the best of my background, I aimed to become a historian who could identify the benefits Japan received from the Japan-US alliance, but at the same time confront the pain that Japanese society has suffered from the presence of US military bases and other similar issues.
This effort requires a sense of political balance. More than that, it requires a comprehensive perspective to view the entire situation, from global relations to domestic society, via domestic politics. Achieving this balanced perspective was by no means simple; I realized that I had to generate new strengths on my own in order to be up for the task, and not just wait for some philosophical vision from this unique era to manifest itself. And before I knew it, I found myself studying the history of the revised Meiji period treaties.
In the 1850s when the Edo period was ending, Japan concluded a series of treaties with western countries as it opened itself to the world. Negotiations to revise these treaties based on the recognition that they were unequal lasted from the 1870s to the 1890s. This was the most challenging diplomatic task for the Meiji government during the early and middle years of its existence. Many of you may have read about this in school textbooks, which describe the treaties as unequal because Japan allowed consular jurisdiction for foreign countries and lost its own tariff autonomy.
Deciding which parts of the treaties to revise and how to do so was indeed a significant diplomatic issue, but the history of the treaty revisions entails much more. For instance, there was domestic public opinion, which both encouraged and criticized the diplomatic efforts to revise the treaties. There were governments, which pursued their own goals based upon agreeing with or opposing the privileges that the foreigners obtained. There were also the societies of foreign settlements which had nurtured their own culture. If I could become the conductor, so to speak, of the orchestra comprised of these diverse parties that played the dense Meiji harmony, I could provide intellectual tools that would allow for a full comprehension of the post-war Japan-US alliance.
On the other hand, I have a problem. That is, the research has been taking too long, and I am still studying the Meiji period as I pass 40 years of age. The more difficult problem is that I sometimes find myself enjoying this and would like to continue my research into the distant future.
Question: Is your research useful?
Answer: People become wiser by recognizing changes in context. Thus, I believe that my research is useful.
(We have asked twelve professors who contributed articles to this issue to answer the above question in 60 words or fewer. Professor Iokibe's response appears here.)
Note: This article was originally printed in Tansei 33 (Japanese language only).
To the Editor:
Ambassador Sol M. Linowitz proposes a reasonable suggestion concerning use of the Panama Canal Treaties as a precedent in renegotiating the status of Hong Kong (Op- Ed Aug. 22). However, his statements that the claim of ''unequal treaties'' by both Panama and China invalidates their respective agreements are grossly misleading and need to be refuted.
Linowitz notes that Panama, throughout its negotiations with the U.S. in the 1970's, claimed that the 1903 treaty was unfair, that it was entered into under duress and that therefore Panama never legally gave up whatever the treaty purposed. He recites also the well-known Chinese position being relied upon during the current negotiations with the United Kingdom, that China's 1898 treaty and earlier ones were ''unequal treaties'' imposed by force and therefore also null and void under current international law. Both Panama and China have relied upon the doctrine of unequal treaties, first enunciated by the Soviet Union shortly after the Russian Revolution but rejected repeatedly by the rest of the international community as a means of bolstering an otherwise plausible claim for renegotiation. The common attempt in both international and domestic arenas to rely upon spurious legal theories as a means of coercing settlement of disputes is despicable and ought to be fiercely countered. Such a practice only adds fuel to the fire of a particular conflict, is a misuse of the law and does generally a severe disservice to the legal system.
It seems to me that Linowitz is incorrectly acceding to the proposition that unequal treaties are unlawful under international law and that therefore their renegotiation is required. Renegotiation of turn-of-the-century treaties may be advantageous for various reasons, political, economic, moral or military. However, it is simply not correct to agree, implicitly or otherwise, that such treaties are necessarily unfair, or are illegal under a newly developed international law.
The United Nations' Convention on the Law of Treaties (Article 52), which emerged in 1969 after years of drafting, codified the customary law rule that the unlawful use of military force in the treaty-making process voids the resulting treaty. However, it is absolutely clear, from the text of that convention and from the record of its negotiation, that this newer rule of customary international law does
not apply to any treaties entered into prior to the drafting of the U.N. Charter in 1945.
How could it? There are hundreds and hundreds of treaties whose validity would otherwise be questioned on often spurious and politicized versions of history.
For example, three years ago Iraq cavalierly denounced its border treaty with Iran as null and void, asserting that it had been improperly imposed by Iran, after Iran claimed that the prior 1936 treaty was imposed on it by Great Britain. Iraq then immediately attacked Iran and today remains embroiled in a war of attrition that threatens the oil supply of the West.
It is unacceptable that states and statesmen rely on fictional rules which have no justifiable policy basis or legal underpinning whatsoever. Margaret Thatcher would do well, on behalf of the United Kingdom and the world community, to gird for a legal struggle, if that is required to ensure that the rule of law does not give way to expedient diplomacy in the continuing negotiations with the Peoples Republic of China over the status of Hong Kong. This world has all too often seen the result of giving in to the big lie once too often. STUART S. MALAWER, McLean, Va., Aug. 31, 1983Continue reading the main story