First Advisor

Melvin Gurtov

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Political Science


Political Science




National security -- Japan, United States -- Foreign relations -- Japan, Japan -- Foreign relations -- United States



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, v, 241 p.)


The early September day in 1951 that brought the Pacific War to an official end, with the signing of a treaty of peace, concluded as representatives of Japan and the United States signed the Bilateral Security Treaty. The security treaty symbolized new realities of international relations, just as the peace treaty had buried the old. By cementing into place a strategic alliance between the former Pacific antagonists, the treaty represented the great and lasting achievement of postwar American diplomacy in Asia. Nevertheless, the treaty was both the outcome and the perpetuation of a stereotyped and lopsided relationship, now fixed firmly into place, as a Japan diminished by defeat acceded to the necessity of a security embrace with its former conqueror, and the United States enlisted a most valued, albeit a most reluctant ally for the ongoing struggle to meet and defeat the Soviet threat. At the end of the Pacific War such an outcome had been beyond the pale. The security treaty was the product of years of crisis adaptation. Hopes that the U.S. could make China the great power of Asia were dashed by revolution. As cherished verities of U.S. diplomacy fell by the wayside, new truisms, based upon strategic interests inherited from victory in the Pacific and the cold war policy of containment, staunchly rose to assume their place. As a result, U.S. attitudes towards Japan underwent a tortuous reassessment. The initial occupation policies of disarmament and reform were replaced by the urgent need to enlist Japan as a vital cold war asset. However, this reorientation was not easily accomplished. Competing interests within the U.S. Government clashed over the means necessary to insure Japan's security and stability, while also guaranteeing the creation of a reliable ally -- a debate that became ever more heated as the cold war intensified. The Japanese, at great disadvantage, skillfully attempted to negotiate a role for themselves in the postwar world, eager for an alliance, yet fearful of domination. The goal of this thesis is to chart and document the evolution of this policy transformation, in all its twists and odd turns. To accomplish this task I turned to an older tradition of political science, one widely practiced at the dawn of the discipline. To be sure, judicious use was made of many of the theories and methodological approaches prevalent currently. Yet while useful at times, these methods often failed to adequately explain those indeterminate moments of idiosyncratic chance and contingency of events upon which so much, to my mind, the final outcome depended. I turned therefore to a more historical approach. My primary sources became the diplomatic record as revealed in the Foreign Relations of the United States and the memoirs of those who participated in the fashioning of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. By the time the security treaty was concluded, the agreement reached was not one of shared joint purpose, but one which defined and gave sanction to diverging national aims that could not, nonetheless, be realized in isolation. The continued U.S. military presence in Japan had been the goal of a policy process ultimately defined in military terms, as the final bastion of cold war containment on the rim of Asia. The Japanese understood the need for security in a volatile world, but not the necessity of providing it for themselves, as the postwar political system slowly organized around emerging economic priorities. It was an odd arrangement, but one which met respective needs and desires. Yet its lack of reciprocity and mutual commitment has ensured through the years the continuation of an ambiguous and uncertain alliance.


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