13. Memorandum From the Assistant Legal Adviser for Far Eastern Affairs (Snow) to the Director of the Office of Northeast Asian Affairs (McClurkin)1


  • Kuriles and South Sakhalin

You desire comment on your memorandum of February 16, 1955.2

Paragraph 1 is correct.
Paragraph 2 is correct.
The Potsdam Proclamation, paragraph (8), reads “The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, and such minor islands as we determine.” The Cairo Declaration referred specifically only to “the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa and the Pescadores”, although it did add “Japan will also be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed.” The San Francisco Peace Treaty amounts to a “determination” by the Allied Powers as to the “minor islands” which Japan is to renounce. By its terms Japan renounced (a) [Page 22] certain islands off Korea; (b) Formosa and the Pescadores; (c) the Kurile Islands, South Sakhalin and adjacent islands; (d) the League of Nation’s Mandate System; (e) the Antarctic area; and (f) the Spratley and Paracel Islands. In other words, the Treaty appears to be an implementation of the precise terms of the Potsdam Proclamation rather than an attempt to carry out the vague provision of the Cairo Declaration regarding territories taken by violence and greed.
It is quite correct to say that Japan did not acquire the Kuriles by violence, but it might be well to remember that they were for a century a matter of dispute with Russia, and that by the Treaty of Amity in 1855, the frontier between the two countries was drawn between the islands of Etorofu and Uruppu, leaving the two southern Kuriles, Kunashir and Etorofu, to Japan, and the 18 northern Kuriles, beginning with Uruppu, to Russia. The Northern Kuriles remained Russian until the St. Petersburg Treaty of 1875, when, in exchange for Japanese claims to Sakhalin, the northern Kuriles were ceded to Japan. By the Treaty of 1905 at Portsmouth, Japan regained the south half of Sakhalin. You are correct that the text of my memorandum of October 28, 1954, does not make this clear, but I thought I had cleared it up by the footnote.
The United States cannot consistently take the position that Japan has not renounced the Kuriles, any more than she could take the position that she had not renounced Formosa and the Pescadores. She must, in view of the position taken by the Secretary and by the United States Senate, contend that their disposition is for future international action. It would be perfectly consistent for the United States to support Japan in the argument that these islands, or part of them, should be returned to Japan by international action, such as an accord among the Allied Powers, including the Soviet Union.
The United States is entirely free to support Japan’s claim that the Habomai Islands and Shikotan were not part of the Kurile Islands, and therefore not renounced. The reference in paragraph 6 to a possible claim by Japan that as respects the Soviet Union she has not renounced the Kuriles is subject to my comment in paragraph 5 above.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 661.941/2–1755. Confidential.
  2. Supra.