In war, an open city is a settlement which has announced it has abandoned all defensive efforts, generally in the event of the imminent capture of the city to avoid destruction. Once a city has declared itself an open city, the opposing military will be expected to peacefully occupy the city rather than destroy it. The concept aims to protect the city's civilians and cultural landmarks from a battle which may be futile.
Attacking forces do not always respect the declaration of an "open city". Defensive forces will occasionally use the designation as a political tactic as well. In some cases, the declaration of a city to be "open" is made by a side on the verge of defeat and surrender; in other cases, those making such a declaration are willing and able to fight on but prefer that the specific city be spared.
According to the Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, it is forbidden for the attacking party to "attack, by any means whatsoever, non-defended localities".
Several cities were declared open cities during World War II:
Post-World War II Japan
In 1977, a far-left group in Japan—called the "National Open City Declaration Movement Network"—began organizing activists to make cities preemptively declare themselves "defenseless" under the Geneva Convention, so that in the event of war, they would be legally forced to welcome any invasion. This was rejected by nearly all of Japan's political parties and the ruling government as inherently absurd, since Japan was not in a war, and in the event of war such a decision would have to be approved by the national government. However, the Social Democratic Party—which was the junior party of the ruling coalition from 1994 to 1996—supported it.
Nevertheless, four wards of Tokyo and Kagoshima City, Japan's southernmost port, among many other cities, are considering legislation to be declared "open cities".
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