Journal of Northeast Asian Studies

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 3-49

First online:

“A disagreement between allies”: The United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet-Japanese territorial dispute, 1945–1956

  • Fiona HillAffiliated withHarvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government

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Russian-Japanese relations are frozen in time by their territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands. In untangling the dispute, scholars have studied the history of Russo-Japanese relations, the USSR’s annexation of the islands in 1945, and the role of the United States as the USSR’s erstwhile wartime ally and Japan’s postwar partner. The United Kingdom, a key player in 1945, has been neglected in these studies. This article analyzes the evolution of the British position on the Soviet-Japanese territorial dispute from 1945 to the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1956. The article reveals the marked divergence in this position from that of the United States, proceeding from a disagreement over the interpretation of the 1945 Yalta Agreement. In addition, the article highlights the manipulation of the territorial dispute by the United States to further its own political and security objectives and the British reaction to these maneuvers.