President Ma Ying-jeou attended opening ceremonies for two events on the morning of July 7. The first event was an international academic seminar entitled "War in History and Memory: An International Conference on the Seventieth Anniversary of China's Victory in the War of Resistance against Japan." The second was a book launch for a series dedicated to the history of the War of Resistance. The president used the occasion to explain how the ROC's war against Japanese aggression is related to World War II and Taiwan's retrocession. He also emphasized that in the future, the government will uphold the spirit of cooperation and peace enshrined in the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty and continue to promote the development of ROC-Japan relations driven by fact-based objectivity, humane empathy, and clarity about historical events, both positive and negative.
In his remarks, the president noted that this year is the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the ROC's victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan, and Taiwan's retrocession. To commemorate those milestones, Academia Historica, the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica, and the National Palace Museum jointly sponsored "War in History and Memory: An International Conference on the Seventieth Anniversary of China's Victory in the War of Resistance against Japan." For the conference, an important event in the historians' community, they have invited almost 300 scholars, local and foreign for in-depth discussions about the history of this important event in modern history from military, political, diplomatic, economic, and cultural perspectives.
The president began by saying that over the past 70 years successive post-WW II conflicts such as the Chinese Civil War, Korean War, and East-West Cold War, and major changes to the international landscape have led the international community to overlook the ROC's anguish and suffering during the War of Resistance Against Japan, as well as the ROC's contributions to victory in World War II. As a result, over the past 20 years the word "forgotten" has been a recurring theme in several important books on the history of the War of Resistance, including the 1997 book The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II by Iris Chang and Rana Mitter's Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945, published in 2013. The United Daily News has also recently published "The Forgotten Warriors (被遺忘的戰士)," which recounts the stories of veterans on both sides of the Taiwan Strait who fought in the War of Resistance.
President Ma went on to explain that over the past decade or so, as important archival materials such as the diaries of former President Chiang Kai-shek and German businessman John Rabe have become available, international academics have placed greater emphasis on research into the history of the ROC's War of Resistance, ensuring that long-buried historical facts from that war are no longer forgotten. New historical information brings new perspectives, so there is a special significance in looking back at the history of the War of Resistance this year, the 70th anniversary of the ROC's victory. Upon seeing the conference agenda on July 6, the president was quite gratified to see that one thesis was entitled "A War No Longer Forgotten: China in WW II."
The president then characterized the ROC's eight-year War of Resistance as a matter of national survival, and a major historical event with far-reaching international repercussions that was unprecedented in terms of scope, duration, number of casualties, and overall impact.
The president then pointed out that during the War of Resistance, ROC military capabilities were no match for the Japanese. And yet, with incomparable determination and persistence against insurmountable odds, ROC forces refused to surrender or compromise. That kept 800,000 modern Japanese forces tied down, preventing them from fully engaging in the Pacific Theater, and indirectly preventing them from occupying Australia and India. The US president at that time, Theodore Roosevelt, also said that one key to the Allied victory in World War II was China's staunch war of resistance against Japan, which prevented Japan and Germany from joining forces and linking the Asian and European theaters. These factors all explain just how the ROC made an indelible contribution to the Allied victory in WW II.
Commenting on the relationship between the War of Resistance and Taiwan's retrocession, the president said that at the end of November 1943 the war took a turn for the better, and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in his capacity as Supreme Commander of the China Theater, together with US President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill convened the Cairo Conference. On December 1 they issued the Cairo Declaration, which stipulates that, "All the territories Japan has stolen from China, such as Manchuria, Taiwan, and the Penghu islands shall be restored to the Republic of China," and also demanded Japan's unconditional surrender.
By July 26, 1945 Germany had already surrendered and the war in Europe was over; the ROC, US, and Great Britain jointly issued the Potsdam Proclamation, again calling for the Japanese to surrender. Article 8 of the Proclamation stipulates that the terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out. Later that year on August 15, the Japanese emperor issued an imperial edict accepting the provisions of the Potsdam Proclamation and surrendering unconditionally. So the eight-year long War of Resistance was finally won by the ROC. Japan formally completed its unconditional surrender to the Allies on September 2, signing the formal instrument aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Paragraphs one and six of the Instrument of Surrender also stipulate that Japan accept the provisions of the Potsdam Proclamation.
The president then told the conference participants that Japanese forces in China surrendered to the ROC in Nanjing on September 9, 1945 and in Taipei on October 25, 1945. Immediately thereafter, the ROC began to exercise sovereignty over Taiwan, and in January of 1946 reinstated ROC nationality for residents of Taiwan and the Penghu area and began to hold elections. On April 28, 1952, seven hours before the San Francisco Peace Treaty became effective, the principals signed the Treaty of Peace between the Republic of China and Japan. That treaty reconfirmed ROC sovereignty over Taiwan, providing incontrovertible proof of the link between victory in the War of Resistance and the retrocession of Taiwan.
The president also noted that over the past few decades, some people have questioned whether the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation are just war-time policy documents, and therefore non-binding. "That is completely wrong," the president said. As stated above, the provisions of the Cairo Declaration were incorporated into the Potsdam Proclamation, and the Japanese Instrument of Surrender expressly accepts the provisions of the Potsdam Proclamation. These three historic legal documents have therefore already become linked as a single entity. Even more important than the inclusion of those three documents in compilations of treaties and other instruments published by the US and Japanese governments is the inclusion of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender in the collection of treaties published by the United Nations. These inclusions verify that documents and pledges jointly issued by the heads of state of the ROC, the US, and Great Britain are legally binding. So after 50 years of Japanese colonial rule Taiwan and Penghu were finally returned to the ROC, an event of profound significance that erased the ignominy of losing the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95).
Turning to sovereignty issues in the South China Sea islands, the president said that in the second year following its victory in the War of Resistance, the ROC government, invoking the relevant instruments of international law including the Cairo Declaration, Potsdam Proclamation, and the Instrument of Japanese Surrender, reasserted sovereignty over all the islands and reefs of the South China Sea. It also dispatched naval forces and personnel from the Ministry of the Interior to survey and map each individual island and set up memorial markers. People in the ROC today are familiar with Taiping Island and Zhongye Island, names that were taken from naval vessels involved in reclaiming the islands that year. Taiping Island is the largest naturally-occurring island in the Spratlys, and the only one with a natural source of fresh water. Over the past few decades the ROC government has built infrastructure on the island including a solar-powered electrical system, telecommunications system, hospital, post office, pier, runway, and farm. In the future, the ROC government will continue to make "peace" our central concern, and actively develop the infrastructure on Taiping Island to make it a hub for international humanitarian aid, environmental protection, and scientific research.
President Ma also declared that Taiping Island is in complete conformance with the criteria regarding islands in Article 121 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Denial by any country of the fact that Taiping is an island cannot possibly impair its status as an island, and based on the maritime rights conferred by UNCLOS, the ROC will defend all rights and interests to which it is entitled under international and maritime law.
Commenting on the relationship between ethnic Chinese and Japanese, the president said that we should deal with history based on facts and with relatives based on empathy, making a clear distinction between positive and negative historical events. This will allow the two ethnic groups to establish a great and enduring friendship.
After quoting the opening paragraph of the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty of 1952: "Considering their mutual desire for good neighborliness in view of their historical and cultural ties and geographical proximity; realizing the importance of their close cooperation to the promotion of their common welfare and to the maintenance of international peace and security…," the president noted that since he took office in 2008 the ROC government has preserved the spirit of that treaty, designating the relationship between Taiwan and Japan as a special partnership. Since severing diplomatic ties back in 1972, the two countries have still signed 58 agreements. Twenty-five of those accords, or about 43%, have been signed during President Ma's term of office, including the Taiwan-Japan Bilateral Investment Arrangement (BIA) and a fisheries agreement.
The president then recalled that in 2013 the Japan government announced it had "nationalized" the Diaoyutai Islets, which set off massive anti-Japanese demonstrations in 20 mainland Chinese cities. On August 5 of that same year, the 60th anniversary of the date on which the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty took effect, President Ma proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative. That initiative calls on all concerned parties to shelve sovereignty disputes and jointly develop resources. Shortly thereafter, Taiwan and Japan signed a fisheries agreement that allows ROC fishing vessels to operate freely, without interference, in a marine area twice as large as Taiwan itself. That ended a forty-year fishing dispute between the two sides while putting the concept that "sovereignty cannot be compromised, but resources can be shared" into concrete practice. US Secretary of State John Kerry, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel, and Australian Minister for Defence David Johnston have all publicly lauded that agreement as a good model for resolving international disputes peacefully.
The president also mentioned that Taiwan and Japan amended their previous aviation accord in 2011 and formally signed an open skies agreement, expanding the number of flights between the two countries as well as the number of destinations served. Last year the ROC sent about 2.97 million visitors to Japan, more than any other country, and Japan sent about 1.63 million visitors to Taiwan, our second-largest source of overseas visitors. At about 4.6 million, the total number of visitors last year almost doubled the 2.5 million visitors that travelled between the two countries before the president took office, he said.
President Ma emphasized that ROC-Japan relations are the best they have ever been since formal diplomatic relations were severed over 40 years ago. That has not influenced this year's expanded commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of victory in the War of Resistance and Taiwan's retrocession, however, as the president firmly believes that while expansionist aggression is a mistake that may be forgiven, the truths of history cannot be forgotten. So the government will continue to uphold the spirit of cooperation and peace enshrined in the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty. It will also continue to promote the development of ROC-Japan relations based on objective facts, human empathy, and clarity about the past, facing history squarely with an eye towards the future.