Date of Award

Spring 5-2019

Author's School

College of Arts & Sciences

Author's Program


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (A.B.)




From August 1945 to September 1951, the United States had a unique opportunity to define and frame how it would approach its foreign relations in the Asia-Pacific region. As the dominant power in the Pacific after World War II and claiming direct authority over vanquished Japan, the United States had the liberty to design its own post-war vision for the entire region. Until 1951, American State Department diplomats and government planners, attempted—ultimately unsuccessfully—to harmonize the competing motivations of lingering World War II multilateralist idealism and Cold War geopolitics in a postcolonial, postwar world. This thesis examines U.S.-Korean relations in context of how both sides grappled with the requirements of addressing a history of colonialism and wartime sacrifice, which came to be overshadowed by American Cold War-inflected concerns. U.S. policymakers ultimately shelved multilateralist defense schemes such as the Pacific Pact, which would have been a NATO in Asia. Through a series of short-term tactical decisions, U.S. diplomats also transformed the San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan from a post-war agreement of reconciliation and moral redress into a Cold War device that would reinstate Japanese strategic advantages, albeit under American control. Emblematic of this shift was the exclusion of Korea from both the peace treaty itself and its complementary defense negotiations. State Department officials avoided the responsibility of resolving persisting wartime issues even while attempting to implement a new postwar vision for Asia. U.S. diplomats had long-standing racialized assumptions about Korean cultural and political inferiority which corresponded with Americans’ growing distaste for rehashing the legacy of Japanese imperialism in Asia. The stark reality was that Cold War geopolitics had left little room for long-term multilateralist visions for the future. By failing to address Korean concerns in the San Francisco Peace Treaty and its complementary defense structure, the U.S. in turn generated a postwar design for the Asia-Pacific guided solely by efforts to maximize American tactical advantages in both diplomatic and military contexts, to its long-term detriment.


Elizabeth Borgwardt

Additional Advisors

Lori Watt