English-Language Research Papers Related to Takeshima Prepared by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1947

1. Introduction

On January 6, 2014, the San'in Chuo Shinpo newspaper ran a story with the headline "Takeshima, Edo jidai chizu tenpu shi, GHQ settoku; 1947 nen Gaimusho teishutsu bunsho; kowa joyaku, Amerika no ryodo handan ni eikyo ka" (Edo Period Map Among Documents Submitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1947 to Persuade General Headquarters on Takeshima; May Have Affected US Decision on Territory in San Francisco Peace Treaty). The article was part of a series published by the newspaper on Kaisei Nihon yochi rotei zenzu (Revised Complete Map of Japanese Lands and Roads), a work by the eighteenth-century geographer Nagakubo Sekisui; the documents submitted by MOFA in 1947 had been known about for a long time. Recently there has been an argument, however, that the San Francisco Peace Treaty defined Takeshima as not being part of Korean territory due to lobbying from the Japanese side.1 This paper provides objective information related to the documents mentioned in the article above, since they might be referred to in this kind of argument.

2. Preparation and Submission of English Language Materials

After World War II hostilities ended, the Japanese government prepared for the formal peace that was to come. This included producing English-language research papers explaining facts, figures, and background information that were expected to be related to provisions in the peace treaty. As Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru recollected it, work on the materials began around the autumn of 1946; they were mainly targeted at "the government officials in Washington DC, who were relatively little informed about the exact state of affairs in Japan, rather than those in General Headquarters who had a firsthand view of the country." Documents related to territorial issues were "among those papers that received the most effort" and "detailed statements showed from every kind of historical, geographical, ethnic, and economic perspective that Okinawa, the Ogasawara [Bonin] Islands, Karafuto [Sakhalin], the Chishima [Kurile] Islands, the Habomai Islands, Shikotan, and other areas were inseparable parts of Japanese territory." At first, concerns persisted that the US government might not be willing to accept the materials, but in 1948 a way to send them to Washington opened up through the goodwill of the GHQ Diplomatic Section. The English-language research papers were praised as excellent reference materials by Washington and this favorable reaction led to further efforts in which Japan produced "research papers totaling tens of volumes and hundreds of thousands of words related to topics including population problems, war damage, living standards, reparations, shipping, and fisheries issues."2

Nishimura Kumao, who oversaw preparations for the peace treaty as the head of the Treaty Bureau at MOFA, relates the following episode regarding how the chance to send materials via GHQ to Washington came about. In December 1947, a MOFA document with the title "Heiwa joyaku no Rengokoku an (sotei) to wagaho kiboan no hikaku" (A Comparison Between the Expected Allied Draft Peace Treaty and Our Hoped for Draft) leaked and was printed in a US weekly magazine. When a vice-minister for foreign affairs went to apologize to Major General Courtney Whitney of the GHQ Government Section, Whitney said that it was natural for the government of a defeated country to make preparations for a peace treaty, but that rather than being scooped by a reporter, he would prefer it if the government would tell him what they wanted to say and he would pass it on to Washington. It became possible to submit research papers via the Diplomatic Section instead of sending them in secret through individuals, as had been the practice until then.3

3. English-Language Research Papers Relating to Territorial Matters

Among the English-language research papers submitted, there were pamphlets named Minor Islands Adjacent to Japan Proper divided into four parts relating to territorial issues. These are: "Part I. The Kurile Islands, the Habomais and Shikotan" (November 1946); "Part II. Ryukyu and other Nansei Islands" (March 1947); "Part III. The Bonin Islands Group; The Volcano Islands Group" (March 1947); and "Part IV. Minor Islands in the Pacific; Minor Islands in the Japan Sea" (June 1947). They can be read in the US National Archives and also on microfilm within Japan.4

Of these, the fourth part includes mention of Takeshima. The term "minor islands" in the title comes from Article 8 of the Potsdam Declaration, which stipulates that "Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine." This is to say that while there were no plans for changes in the legal status of the main four Japanese islands, the Allied Powers were able to decide which of the other islands owned by Japan would be taken away from it, and so there was a need to explain their history and related matters. Part IV is stored in the US Department of State main file of documents at the National Archives together with the cover letter it was originally sent with by the United States Political Advisor for Japan at the GHQ Diplomatic Section. This was a branch of the US State Department as Japan had lost its independence and could not receive diplomatic delegations.5 The letter dated September 23, 1947, states that following Part I, sent on February 26, 1947, and Part II, sent on July 14, 20 copies of Part IV were forwarded.6 This demonstrates that the English-language materials were sent to the US State Department via GHQ.

Nishimura states that after these four pamphlets, English-language materials were prepared relating to territorial matters for the Minami Chishima [Southern Kurile] Islands, the Habomai Islands, and Shikotan Islands (April 1949); Karafuto (January 1949); and Tsushima Island (July 1949).7

4. Content Relating to Takeshima

In the fourth part of Minor Islands Adjacent to Japan Proper, the second chapter, "Minor Islands in the Japan Sea," discusses Takeshima and Ulleungdo. The chapter consists of an introduction followed by sections on the geography, history, and industry of the "Liancourt Rocks (Take-shima)" and "Dagelet Island (Matsu-shima, Utsuryo or Ul-lung Island)," respectively (on pages 8-12 of the pamphlet), with a final illustration, which is part of a map from Nagakubo Sekisui's 1779 work, Revised Complete Map of Japanese Lands and Roads.

To give a broad summary here of what information was included relating to Takeshima, the introduction talks first about its name. It states that:

The Liancourt Rocks, also called Hornet Islands in Europe, is known in Japan as Take-shima. The Japanese name for Dagelet is Matsu-shima , or Utsuryo, of which the Korean equivalent Ul-lung is also used sometimes in the West.

[. . .] Originally it was the Liancourts which were called "Matsushima," and Dagelet which was called "Take-shima." The reversing of the names originated in a curious combination of circumstance.

It goes on to say that the island now known as Ulleungdo was visited successively by Europeans named Jean-Francois de Galaup de la Perouse and William R. Broughton, who called it "Dagelet" and "Argonaut," respectively.8 As they had given different measurements for longitude, however, two islands were shown on maps made in Europe. When Philipp Franz von Siebold prepared his map of Japan published in 1840, he designated Dagelet as Matsushima and Argonaut as Takeshima. Later the name "Argonaut" was discarded, but "Dagelet continued to be called Matsu-shima, and the name Take-shima came to be transferred to the Island which had been originally Matsu-shima and which was later named Liancourts."

Then, the 1. Geography" section of "Liancourt Rocks (Take-shima)" gives the territory's longitude and latitude, distance from the Oki Islands, and area, as well as describing how it consists of a pair of islets surrounded by a number of rocks, has no overgrowth, looks white due to birds' droppings, is noted as breeding grounds of sea lions, is unfit for human habitation, and other such information. The "2. History" section states the following. In the Inshu shicho goki (Oki Province: Things Seen and Heard), there is the description:

To the northwest from the Province of Oki there is Matsu-shima at a two days' distance, and at another day's distance further out there is Take-shima. The latter, also called Iso-take-shima, is rich in bamboo, fish etc.

It goes on to say that "It is clear that Matsu-shima here refers to the Liancourts," referring the reader to the illustration from the Revised Complete Map of Japanese Lands and Roads. The islands were discovered by Europeans in 1849 when sighted by the French whaling ship Liancourt. In 1854, the Russian frigate Pallada took soundings nearby and the following year the Hornet, a corvette of the British China Fleet also sounded the vicinity. The document states that "It should be noted that while there is a Korean name for Dagelet, none exists for the Liancourt Rocks and they are not shown in the maps made in Korea." This is followed by the paragraph, "On February 22, 1905, the Governor of Shimane Prefecture, by a prefectural proclamation, placed the Liancourts under the jurisdiction of the Oki Islands Branch Office of the Shimane Prefectural government." The "3. Industry" section notes that in 1904, the inhabitants of Oki Islands began to hunt sea lions on the islands and thereafter each summer, using Dagelet as a base, they went regularly to the rocks and built sheds as temporary quarters for the season.

5. The Research Papers and the Drafting of the Peace Treaty

There are records indicating that English-language materials prepared by MOFA are likely to have been consulted as part of the US preparation process for the Treaty of Peace with Japan signed on September 8, 1951. First, in a chapter with the title "I. General; 1. Nature of the Treaty" of the July 1950 Commentary on Draft Treaty of Peace with Japan (December 29, 1949) prepared by the US Department of State, there is the following statement.

Takeshima (Liancourt Rocks)--The two uninhabited islets of Takeshima, almost equidistant from Japan and Korea in the Japan Sea, were formally claimed by Japan in 1905, apparently without protest by Korea, and placed under the jurisdiction of the Oki Islands Branch Office of Shimane Prefecture. They are a breeding ground for sea lions, and records show that for a long time Japanese fishermen migrated there during certain seasons. Unlike Dagelet Island a short distance to the west, Takeshima has no Korean name and does not appear ever to have been claimed by Korea. The islands have been used by US forces during the occupation as a bombing range and have possible value as a weather or radar station site.9

Similarities with the English-language materials introduced above can be found, particularly the expression relating to the "Oki Islands Branch Office of Shimane Prefecture" and the part describing how Takeshima has no Korean name. The last sentence talking about it as a possible "weather or radar station site" comes from a letter written by William J. Sebald, Acting United States Political Adviser for Japan, to the US Secretary of State on November 19, 1949.10

The July 1950 Commentary on Draft Treaty of Peace with Japan (December 29, 1949) is based on provisions in Article 3 of the draft that "The territory of Japan shall comprise the four principal Japanese islands of Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku and Hokkaido and all adjacent minor islands, including the islands of the Inland Sea (Seto Naikai), Tsushima, Takeshima (Liancourt Rocks), Oki Retto . . ." Preparations for the Treaty of Peace with Japan then entered a new stage, overseen by a consultant to US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, inviting the opinions of other involved countries. In August 1950, a concise draft was drawn up to replace the detailed working draft prepared by the State Department for internal consideration by the US government. The concise draft no longer included provisions regarding islands retained by Japan and only described territory that would no longer be part of Japan. In March 1951, the US draft and a draft independently prepared by Britain were completed, followed by a joint US-UK draft in May, and a revised US-UK draft in June. A conference then took place in San Francisco in September for the purpose of signing the treaty.

During the final stage of preparation for the peace treaty, on July 19, 1951, the Republic of Korea ambassador to the United States visited Dulles and requested that "Dokdo" be added to Article 2 (a) relating to Japan's renunciation of Korea in the draft treaty, which stated "Japan recognizing the independence of Korea, renounces all right, title and claim to Korea, including the islands of Quelpart, Port Hamilton and Dagelet."11 On August 10, the US government, in a letter written by Dean Rusk on behalf of the Secretary of State, denied the ROK request, stating that "As regards the island of Dokdo, otherwise known as Takeshima or Liancourt Rocks, this normally uninhabited rock formation was according to our information never treated as part of Korea and, since about 1905, has been under the jurisdiction of the Oki Islands Branch Office of Shimane Prefecture of Japan. The island does not appear ever before to have been claimed by Korea."12 This reply uses phrases from the US State Department's July 1950 Commentary on Draft Treaty of Peace with Japan (December 29, 1949).

6. Conclusion

In the Commentary, which affirms that Takeshima is Japanese territory, similar phrases can be seen to those in English-language research papers prepared by MOFA in Japan, and phrases from the Commentary are used in the August 1951 reply on behalf of the US Secretary of State denying the request from Korea to alter the draft peace treaty so as to give it territorial rights over Takeshima. Does this mean that the United States made a mistaken decision due to lobbying by Japan?

At the time that MOFA drew up the English-language research papers and sent them to the State Department via GHQ, the Japanese government had not seen any draft treaty. The papers explained the history of various small islands based on general assumptions as found in Article 8 of the Potsdam Declaration and other sources (see section 3 above). Even if one was to describe the preparation and sending of English-language research papers as lobbying, as Treaty Bureau head Nishimura records Major General Whitney of the GHQ Government Section as saying, it is only natural for the government of a defeated country to make preparations for a peace treaty (see section 2 above), and that in itself is no cause for criticism.

In the August 10, 1951 reply by the US secretary of state is the statement that "according to our information" Takeshima was never treated as part of Korea really due not to "our" information, but mistaken Japanese information from its English-language papers?

It is a fact that Takeshima has never been a part of Korea.13 This is true, both historically and under international law, whether the information is American or Japanese. Even if the United States did use English-language materials prepared by Japan as a reference, it did not base its decision only on them without making its own investigation. After the ROK requested on July 19, 1951, that "Dokdo" (and "Parangdo") be added to the article in the draft peace treaty relating to the renunciation of Korea by Japan, the US State Department began looking into the island called "Dokdo." The investigation involved Samuel Whittemore Boggs, a geography specialist, and Rodney Frelinghuysen, who was responsible for Korean affairs at the State Department. Its result, as written in an internal memorandum, was that "Mr. Boggs states that although he has 'tried all resources in Washington' he has been unable to identify Dokdo and Parangdo," and that "[Northeast Asian Affairs officer Henry O. H.] Frelinghuysen later reported that an Embassy officer had told him they believed Dokdo was near Ullungdo, or Takeshima Rock, and suspected that Parangodo was too."14 In the Boggs memo of July 16, 1951, "Spratly Island and the Paracels, in Draft Japanese Peace Treaty" (a replacement for a July 13 memo), there are also phrases from the MOFA English-language research papers, as well as from the U.S. Hydrographic Office publication no. 123A, Sailing Directions for Japan, Volume I (1st ed., 1945) a.15 After receiving the memo, Dulles sent a telegram on August 7, 1951, to the US Ambassador to the Republic of Korea stating, "Neither our geographers nor Korean Embassy have been able locate Dokdo and Parangdo Islands. Therefore unless we hear immediately cannot consider this Korean proposal to confirm their sovereignty over these islands."16

From the above, it is clear that the decision regarding the US response on August 10, 1951, to the ROK request was not based simply on the English-language research paper prepared by MOFA in Japan. The decision was made after having "tried all resources in Washington," with reference also to the ROK Embassy. Further, whatever the various factors involved, it is impossible to turn back the clock. First one must admit what has taken place. One should then examine the various issues in the Takeshima territorial dispute from a legal perspective.

  1. See Tsukamoto Takashi, "The Treaty of Peace with Japan and Takeshima's Legal Status," Review of Island Studies, June 10, 2013, http://islandstudies.oprf-info.org/research/a00002/. Translated from "Tai-Nichi heiwa joyaku to Takeshima no hoteki chii," Tosho Kenkyu Journal, Vol. 2 No. 1 (October 2012), pp. 40-53; published by the OPRI Center for Island Studies. []
  2. Yoshida Shigeru, Kaiso junen (Recollections of Ten Years) (Tokyo: Shinchosha, 1957) pp. 25-26. []
  3. Nishimura Kumao, San Furanshisuko Heiwa Joyaku (The San Francisco Peace Treaty), Nihon gaiko-shi (Diplomatic History of Japan) series, Vol. 27 (Tokyo: Kajima Institute of International Peace, 1971), pp. 40-43. []
  4. Part I can be accessed at NARA, RG331, GHQ/SCAP Records, Legal Section, Administrative Division, Miscellaneous File, 1945-48, Box 1307, Folder 5; at the National Diet Library, microfilm call number LS 23645-23646. Parts II and III are at NARA, RG331, GHQ/SCAP Records, Legal Section, Office of the Chief, Miscellaneous File (Various Divisions), 1942-51, Box 893, Folder 22; at the NDL, microfilm call number LS00502-00503. There is a privately published microfilm of Part IV: Records of the U.S. Department of State relating to the internal affairs of Japan, 1945-1949: Dept. of State decimal file 894, Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, Inc., Roll 6, Frames 0539-0555, at the NDL, microfilm call number SIJ-3. []
  5. NARA, RG59, Decimal File 894.014/9-2347. Here 8 represents internal affairs of different countries, 94 is Japan, 014 indicates territory, 9-23 is the date of the document, and 47 is the year. For information about the microfilm see Note 4 above. []
  6. The same Scholarly Resources microfilm in Note 4, Roll 6, Frame 0538. []
  7. Nishimura, San Furanshisuko Heiwa Joyaku, p. 46, Note 3 above. []
  8. Historical investigation has since shown that the name "Argonaut" was given not by Broughton, but by James Colnett. Kawakami Kenzo, Takeshima no rekishi-chirigaku-teki kenkyu (The Historical Geography of Takeshima), (Tokyo: Kokon Shoin, 1966), pp. 10, 17-18. []
  9. Commentary on Draft Treaty of Peace with Japan: NARA, RG 59, Decimal File 1950-54, Box 3006, 694.001/ 7-1850. Microfilm: "Kokumusho tai-Nichi kowa kankei bunsho" (Department of State Documents Relating to Peace Treaty with Japan); National Diet Library call number YF-A10; R01:0900-0933. The December 29, 1949, draft peace treaty is stored at R06:0500-0564. For details of the drafting process as related to Takeshima, see Tsukamoto Takashi, "Heiwa Joyaku to Takeshima (sairon)" (The Peace Treaty and Takeshima, Revisited) in Refarensu, No. 518, March 1994, p. 31-56. Also see Tsukamoto, "The Treaty of Peace with Japan and Takeshima's Legal Status," Note 1 above. []
  10. Detailed Comment on November 2 Draft Treaty: NARA, RG 59, Decimal File 1945-49, Box 3515, 740.0011 PW (Peace)/ 11-1949. Microfilm: "Kokumusho tai-Nichi kowa kankei bunsho" (Department of State Documents Relating to Peace Treaty with Japan); National Diet Library call number YF-A11; R04:0520-0523. []
  11. The Korean Ambassador to the Secretary of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1951, Vol.6, Pt.1, p.1206. NARA, RG59, Lot 54 D423 Japanese Peace Treaty Files of John Foster Dulles, Box 8, Korea. Microfilm: Gregory Murphy ed., "Confidential U.S. State Department Special Files JAPAN 1947-1956," Lot Files. (Bethesda: University Publication of America, [ca.1990]), Reel 9. See also Notes 1 and 9 above. []
  12. NARA, RG59, Lot54 D423 ibid., Box 8, Korea./ Murphy, ibid., Reel 9. []
  13. Apart from the author's article mentioned in Note 1, see Tsukamoto Takashi, "The Late-Seventeenth-Century 'Takeshima' Dispute, with Reference to the Dajokan Order of 1877," Review of Island Studies, August 29, 2014, http://islandstudies.oprf-info.org/research/a00012/. Translated from "Genroku Takeshima Ikken o megutte: Tsuketari, Meiji junen Dajokan shirei," Tosho Kenkyu Journal, Vol. 2 No. 2 (April 2013), pp. 34-55; published by the OPRI Center for Island Studies. See also Tsukamoto, "The Meaning of the Territorial Incorporation of Takeshima (1905)" Review of Island Studies, December 25, 2014, http://islandstudies.oprf-info.org/research/a00014/. Translated from "Takeshima ryodo hennyu (1905) no igi ni tsui te," Tosho Kenkyu Journal, Vol. 3 No. 2 (April 2014), pp. 50-66; published by the OPRI Center for Island Studies. []
  14. Office Memorandum, To: Allison From: Fearey, Date: August 3, 1951. NARA, RG59,

    Lot 54 D423, Japanese Peace Treaty Files of John Foster Dulles, Box 8, Korea. See Tsukamoto Takashi, "Heiwa Joyaku to Takeshima (sairon)," Note 9 above. Microfilm: Murphy, "Confidential U.S. State Department Special Files JAPAN 1947-1956," Reel 9. []

  15. Office Memorandum, To: Fearey From: Boggs, Date: July 13, 1951. NARA, RG59, FW 694.001/7-1351, CS/CVE. I learned about this document and the US Navy publication Sailing Directions for the Southeast Coast of Siberia and Korea, 1st ed., 1947 (H.O.Pub.No.122B); Liancourt Rocks (Take Shima), pp.535-536 from Funasugi Rikinobu, an associate professor in the Faculty of Law and Literature at Shimane University. A facsimile of Boggs' memo is included in Dokdo Historical Materials: United States Volumes II, (National Institute of Korean History, 2008) pp.11-14. National Diet Library call number GC212-B5. []
  16. Confidential Telegram Received, From: Department of State, Date: August 7, 1951, Nr: 111. Dokdo Historical Materials I (National Institute of Korean History), p.110. []


Professor, School of Law, Tokai University. Born in 1952. Graduated from the School of Law, Waseda University. Was director general of the Research and Legislative Reference Bureau of the National Diet Library. Is the author of many articles on the Takeshima issue in the journal Refarensu, published by the National Diet Library, Higashi Ajia Kindaishi, a journal published by Yumani Shobo, and in the Review of Island Studies.