End of World War II
2 September 1945
On 2 September 1945, representatives of the Japanese government and the Japanese armed forces formally surrendered to the Allies by signing the Instrument of Surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay. Immediately following the signing ceremony, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), issued his General Order no. 1 laying out measures for the surrender of Japanese forces in Japan and her territories. General Order no. 1 assigned responsibility for demobilising Japanese forces in three areas, China, Indochina, and Formosa, to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. On 9 September 1945, pursuant to the General Order, Japanese commanders in China and representatives of Generalissimo Chiang signed the Act of Surrender China Theatre in Nanking. Because the surrender of Japan is alleged by China to be the event transferring sovereignty of Formosa to China, an examination of the events surrounding the surrender and the Act of Surrender is warranted.
As a result of the acceptance by the Japanese government on 15 August 1945 of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration calling for the unconditional surrender of Japan, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the China Theatre, issued a telegraphic instruction to Lieut. Gen. Okamura Yasutsugu, Commander of Japanese Forces in Central China, to order the forces under the latter's command to cease all military operations and to send a surrender mission to Yushan in Kiangsi, to receive orders from Gen. Ho Ying-chin, Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese Army. Upon receipt of the instruction, Gen. Okamura forwarded to the Generalissimo a reply informing him that he would send Brig. Gen. Kiyoshi, Deputy Chief of Staff, as his surrender envoy. In a second telegraphic instruction to Gen. Okamura, the Generalissimo ordered the Japanese envoy to proceed to Chihkiang in Hunan, instead of Yushan as originally designated, because the airdrome at Yushan was no ready for use.
In the waning days of the war, the Japanese removed the Vichy French administration and granted nominal independence to the Indochinese states of Vietnam, Cambodia and Luang Prabang (later Laos). In the latter two states, royalist administrations were formed, whilst Vietnam fell under the control of the nationalist Vietminh led by Ho Chi Minh.
At the conclusion of the war, approximately 170,000 Japanese troops remained in Formosa. As in northern China, the surrender and repatriation of Japanese forces in Formosa was carried out with substantial assistance from United States armed forces. The first Allied personnel, a contingent of four United States Army officers and two members of Chiang Kai-shek's secret police (the Bureau of Investigation and Statistics) arrived in Formosa on 1 September 1945. They were followed on 10 September by a team of fifteen officers and men of the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Finally, in mid-September, officers of the United States Army Graves Registration Unit arrived, with the duty of searching for the bodies of fallen American airmen and the graves of prisoners of war, retrieving their effects, identifying wreckage, and documenting finds.
In view of the Chinese claim that the surrender of Japan amounted to a transfer of sovereignty over Formosa, it seems surprising that little attention is given by China to the Japan surrender documents and the events surrounding the surrender. Instead, the legal basis for China's claim to sovereignty over Formosa rests almost entirely on the Cairo Declaration, a non-binding press release, issued unilaterally by a group of belligerents years before victory over the enemy was certain. An examination of the Act of Surrender in the China Theatre and other surrender documents may illuminate the situation:
Neither the circumstances surrounding Japan's surrender in 1945 nor the provisions of the surrender documents evidence, or even suggest, that Japan transferred sovereignty over any of her former possessions as a result of her defeat in war. The best case that could be made is that sovereignty over certain territories were transferred to the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union through the principle of conquest. However, all three of these states disclaimed any acquisition of sovereignty over the territories in which they prevailed against Japan and occupied. The only territories they retained were those they possessed prior to the war against Japan. China, unlike the other Allies, did not prevail against and displace Japan in any of her former possessions. Indeed, at the end of the war, she was on the brink of national annihilation. Aside from conquest, no other method for acquiring sovereignty applies in the period in question. Japan did not cede territories by her surrender; she would do that in the 1951 Peace Treaty. No sovereignty issues with respect to former Japanese possessions were addressed until the 1951 Peace Treaty.