Journal of Northeast Asian Studies

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 3–49 | Cite as

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

  • Fiona Hill


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.


Kuril Island Northeast ASIAN Study Peace Treaty Territorial Dispute Peace Settlement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Bibliography Primary Sources

  1. Archives of Her Majesty’s Foreign Office 1945–1956, Public Record Office, Kew, London.Google Scholar
  2. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.Joint Compendium of Documents on the History of the Territorial Demarcation Between Russia and Japan. As translated by the Strengthening Democratic Institutions Project, 1993.Google Scholar
  3. Public Information Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.The Northern Islands: Background of Territorial Problems in the Japanese-Soviet Negotiations. Japan, 1955.Google Scholar
  4. U.S. Department of Defense.The Entry of the Soviet Union into the War Against Japan: Military Plans, 1941–1945. United States Department of Defense, 1955.Google Scholar
  5. U.S. Department of State.American Foreign Policy 1950–55: Basic Documents, Volume 1. United States Department of State, 1957.Google Scholar
  6. U.S. Department of State.Conference on the Conclusion and Signature of the Treaty of Peace with Japan, San Francisco, California, September 4–8, 1951, Record of Proceedings. United States Department of State, 1951.Google Scholar
  7. U.S. Department of State.Conference on the Conclusion and Signature of the Treaty of Peace with Japan, San Francisco, California, September 4–8, 1951, Supplement to the Record of Proceedings. United States Department of State, 1952.Google Scholar
  8. U.S. Department of State.Foreign Relations of the United States 1951, Volume VI: Asia and the Pacific. Washington DC: GPO, 1977.Google Scholar
  9. U.S. Department of State.Foreign Relations of the United States 1952–1954, Volume XIV, China and Japan, Part 2. Washington DC: GPO, 1985.Google Scholar
  10. U.S. Department of State.Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955–1957, Volume XXIII, Part 1, Japan. Washington DC: GPO, 1991.Google Scholar
  11. U.S. Department of State.Occupation of Japan: Policy and Progress. Publication 267 (1), Far Eastern Series 17. Washington DC: GPO.Google Scholar

Secondary Sources

  1. Allison, Graham, Hiroshi Kimura, and Konstantin Sarkisov.Beyond Cold War to Trilateral Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region: Scenarios for New Relationships Between Japan, Russia, and the United States. Strengthening Democratic Institutions Project, Harvard University, 1992.Google Scholar
  2. Berton, Peter.The Japanese Territorial Dilemma: Historical Background, Disputes, Issues, Questions, Solution Scenarios or: A Thousand Scenarios for the Thousand Islands Dispute. Strengthening Democratic Institutions Project, Harvard University, 1992.Google Scholar
  3. Borton, Hugh, Jerome B. Cohen, William J. Jordan, Donald Keene, Paul F. Langer, and C. Martin Wilbur.Japan Between East and West: The Council on Foreign Relations. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1957.Google Scholar
  4. Buhite, Russell D.Decisions at Yalta: An Appraisal of Summit Diplomacy. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc., 1986.Google Scholar
  5. Burkman, Thomas, ed.The Occupation of Japan: The International Context. Proceedings of a Symposium at Old Dominion University, 21–22 October, 1982. The MacArthur Foundation, 1984.Google Scholar
  6. Clemens, Diane Shaver.Yalta New York: Oxford University Press, 1970.Google Scholar
  7. Dallin, David J.Soviet Russia and the Far East. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1948.Google Scholar
  8. Destler, I.M., Hideo Sato, Priscilla Clapp, and Haruhiro Fuki.Managing an Alliance: The Politics of U.S.-Japanese Relations. Washington DC: The Brookings Institution, 1976.Google Scholar
  9. Douglas, Roy.From War to Cold War, 1942–48. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981.Google Scholar
  10. Dulles, John Foster.War or Peace. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1950.Google Scholar
  11. Dunn, Frederick S.Peacemaking and the Settlement with Japan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963.Google Scholar
  12. Feis, Herbert.Contest Over Japan. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1967.Google Scholar
  13. ——.Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin: The War They Waged and the Peace They Sought. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957.Google Scholar
  14. Goold-Adams, Richard.John Foster Dulles: A Reappraisal. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts Inc., 1962.Google Scholar
  15. Gormly, James.The Collapse of the Grand Alliance 1945–1948. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987.Google Scholar
  16. ——.From Potsdam to the Cold War: Big Three Diplomacy 1945–1947. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc., 1990.Google Scholar
  17. Hellmann, Donald.Japanese Foreign Policy and Domestic Politics. The Peace Agreement with the Soviet Union. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969.Google Scholar
  18. Hoopes, Townsend.The Devil and John Foster Dulles. Boston-Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1973.Google Scholar
  19. Ivanov, Vladimir.The Northern Territories Issue in the Context of U.S.-Japanese-Russian Relations. USJP Occasional Paper 92-05. Harvard University: The Center for International Affairs and the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, 1992.Google Scholar
  20. Jain, Rajendra K.Japan’s Postwar Peace Settlements. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1978.Google Scholar
  21. Messer, Robert.The End of an Alliance: James F. Byrnes, Roosevelt, Truman and the Origins of the Cold War. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1982.Google Scholar
  22. Moore, Harriet.Soviet Far Eastern Policy 1931–1945. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1945.Google Scholar
  23. Nagai, Yonosuke, and Akira Iriye, eds.The Origins of the Cold War in Asia. Columbia University Press, University of Tokyo Press, 1977.Google Scholar
  24. Northern Territories Association.Japan’s Northern Territories. Tokyo: Northern Territories Association, 1974.Google Scholar
  25. Rees, David.The Soviet Seizure of the Kuriles. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1985.Google Scholar
  26. Snell, John L., ed.The Meaning of Yalta: Big Three Diplomacy and the New Balance of Power. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1956.Google Scholar
  27. Stefan, Charles G. “Yalta Revisited: An Update on the Diplomacy of FDR and his Wartime Summit Partners.”Presidential Studies Quarterly, vol. XXIII, no. 4 (fall 1993), pp. 755–70.Google Scholar
  28. Stephan, John.The Kuril Islands: Russo-Japanese Frontier in the Pacific. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974.Google Scholar
  29. Stettinius, Edward R., Jr.Roosevelt and the Russians: The Yalta Conference. London: Jonathan Cape, 1950.Google Scholar
  30. Swearingen, Roger.The Soviet Union and Postwar Japan: Escalating Challenge and Response. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institute Press, 1978.Google Scholar
  31. Taubman, William.Stalin’s America Policy: From Detente to Detente to Cold War. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982.Google Scholar
  32. Yoshida, Shigeru.The Yoshida Memoirs. The Story of Japan in Crisis. Kingswood, Surrey: The Windmill Press Ltd., 1961.Google Scholar
  33. Yoshitsu, Michael M. Japan and the San Francisco Peace Settlement. New York: Columbia University Press, 1983.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fiona Hill
    • 1
  1. 1.Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of GovernmentUSA

Personalised recommendations