Switzerland Mulled Severing Ties with Japan in WWII

The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), September 29, 2017 | Go to article overview

Switzerland Mulled Severing Ties with Japan in WWII


A recently discovered Swiss diplomatic document indicates that Switzerland intended to break off relations with Japan in May 1945, months before it played a major role in ending Japanese involvement in World War II by mediating its acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration (see below) in August.

Associate Prof. Kiyofumi Kato of the National Institute of Japanese Literature confirmed the existence of the document at the Swiss Federal Archives. The Potsdam Declaration might not have been accepted without mediation by the Swiss, so if that nation had indeed decided to sever relations with Japan, it could have delayed the end of the war and increased the damage sustained by Japan.

This is a valuable historical document that reveals a part of Japanese history that is not widely known.

In July 1941, just before Japan and the United States went to war with each other, the United States froze the assets of Japanese people in the country. It expelled officials from the Japanese Embassy the following year.

As a neutral nation, Switzerland was Japan's conduit with other countries for diplomatic matters, its only "protecting power" defending Japanese interests among countries involved in the conflict. Communications between Japan and the United States were conducted via Switzerland until Japan accepted the declaration.

The diplomatic document concerning the severance of relations with Japan was confirmed by Kato, who has been visiting the federal archives in Berne since 2010 to study the Swiss Foreign Ministry's documents on diplomatic negotiations with Japan.

According to the document, Switzerland considered severing ties with Japan because "many Swiss nationals were killed by soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army" in the Battle of Manila, where Japanese and U.S. military forces fought from February to March 1945, resulting in the deaths of about 100,000 civilians. …

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