By 1894, as we have seen, the work of the internal reorganization of Japan had been brought to a point where it no longer needed the entire attention of the nation, and where it was not only safe but necessary to take a more active part in international affairs. The new Japan was certain to enter a period of expansion in population, industry, and commerce. This expansion, together with her intense patriotism and the existing conditions in the Orient, was certain to bring on serious clashes with other countries. The first trouble was in Korea, and out of it was to come a long train of events which has not yet ended, and which has been momentous for the entire world.

It was but natural that there should be friction in Korea. Here, it will be recalled, China and Japan had temporarily adjusted their differences by the agreement of 1885, but both had continued their intrigues. In the background was the Russian, who, as Japan's statesmen well knew, was more to be feared then China. Unless heroic measures were taken, the feeble and reactionary Korea would fall an easy prey to the ever-expanding empire of the north. Were the Land of the Morning Calm to become Russian, Japan believed that she would have a relentlessly aggressive power at her very doors, that her commerce with the neighboring continent would be stifled by unfavorable restrictions, and that the natural outlet of her growing population would be threatened. It must be remembered that the Czar's frontiers in Asia had for centuries been steadily advancing. Long before the time of Peter the Great, cossacks and hardy pioneers had crossed the Urals. They had made their way to the Pacific before the eighteenth century, claiming the land for their imperial master as they went. Russia had clashed with the Chinese, and had taken away from them first the northern shores of the Amur, and then the territory east of the Ussuri. She was expanding in the Trans-Caspian region and was threatening India from the northwest and China from the west. We have already seen that she desired a foothold in southern Korea to make sure of a safe passage from Vladivostok to the open Pacific. She would undoubtedly welcome the acquisition of ice-free ports in Korea or North China as outlets to Siberian railways and trade routes, and as open doors to the commercial and naval control of the Far East. She was already intriguing in Korea and was so strong in Peking that she might succeed in using China as a cat's-paw. No wonder that Japan, as yet not certain of herself, should fear the Russian menace, and should seek to strengthen the hands of the reform party in Seoul in its attempts to reorganize the inefficient and corrupt government and make it capable of holding its own against foreign aggressors.


Between the reactionaries, supported by China, and the reformers, encouraged by Japan, there were frequent clashes, and the Korean government became, if possible, more hopelessly impotent than ever. The agreement of 1885 could not be a permanent settlement of the difficulty, for the joint interests it recognized could only be a sources of friction. China treated Korea as a tributary, scorning the Japanese contention that she was independent. Friction increased in Seoul, and finally, when a rebellion broke out in the unhappy land, China sent troops to suppress it and announced her action to Japan. She did not, be it added, strictly obey the letter of the convention of 1885, for the notice was sent after and not before the troops were dispatched. When the Chinese action became known, Japan promptly prepared to send a force to Korea, as was her right under the convention of 1885, and notified China to that effect. Although the rebellion that had been the occasion for sending the troops quickly died down, Japan and China both kept their forces in Korea. Japan proposed that Peking unite with her in permanently reorganizing the peninsula's government and in putting down disorder. China declined, refusing to admit that Korea was independent, and claimed the right to fix limits both to the number of Japanese troops that could be sent, and to their use. China evidently suspected the Japanese of a desire to control the peninsula and intended to assert unmistakably her own exclusive suzerainty over the land. Japan was at that time in the midst of a bitter struggle between the lower house of the diet and the ministry, and China evidently thought her too torn by internal strife to become a formidable antagonist. She had, moreover, a profound contempt for these "island dwarfs" who had once copied her civilization and had now partly abandoned it for that of the West. China began sending more troops to Korea, although she had been warned by Tokyo that such action would mean war. While one group of reënforcements was on its way, an armed clash occurred with the naval forces of the Japanese. War followed (July, 1894). The details of the conflict need not here be narrated. To China's surprise the Japanese ceased their internal dissensions, and with the splendid loyalty for which they are noted, united solidly and enthusiastically in support of the emperor's forces. The ministry was possibly not at all unwilling to turn the current of popular thought from the struggle for a responsible cabinet to imperialism. Indeed, some have claimed to see in the war a clever ruse of the government to withdraw the attention of the nation from the constitutional struggle by a policy of foreign expansion. The Chinese were beaten on land and sea. Their navy, made up of modern ships, was decisively defeated and its remnants were sunk or captured. Port Arthur and Talien, naval stations on the Liaotung Peninsula, and commanding South Manchuria, were captured. Both places had been fortified under the direction of European engineers, and Port Arthur, with its splendid natural harbor, was considered especially strong. Mukden, the capital of Manchuria, was threatened; Wei-hai-wei, the great harbor-fortress of Shantung, was taken. Japan thus dominated the naval approaches to North China and Peking. A successful expedition was sent to Formosa and the neighboring Pescadores Islands. China was compelled to sue for peace. By the treaty that ended the war, the complete independence of Korea was formally acknowledged by both powers; the Liaotung Peninsula in Southern Manchuria was ceded to Japan; Formosa and the Pescadores were given her; a large indemnity (200,000,000 taels, about $150,000,000) was to be paid her; and China agreed to open up the Yangtze River and certain additional treaty ports to the trade of the world. The dwarf had worsted the giant, and had demonstrated that it was a factor to be reckoned with in the Far East.

Europe had watched the war with interest and surprise, and some of the powers viewed the outcome with alarm. Russia saw her plans for southern expansion blocked and her influence in North China threatened. The German emperor saw in Japan's victory the beginning of the military rehabilitation of Eastern Asia and feared, or pretended to fear, that a yellow wave of conquest would eventually shake to its foundations European world-supremacy. Even before the treaty of peace had been negotiated it seems that Russia had given assurance to Peking that Japan would not be allowed to retain the Liaotung Peninsula. Soon after the treaty was signed, Russia, instigated by Germany and seconded by her ally, France, lodged protests in Tokyo. These were courteous, but firm, for they said that the terms of the treaty threatened the peace of the Far East. At the same time Germany presented a note with a similar purport, but curt and offensive in its language and in the method chosen for transmission. The only course open to Japan was compliance. She had no ally and could not hope to resist successfully the armed forces of the three powers. With as good face as was possible under the circumstances she "accepted the advice," and gave back to China the Liaotung Peninsula in return for an additional indemnity.

The Japanese public was bitterly disappointed with the outcome of the war. To many the original treaty had seemed too mild. Then came the retrocession of the Liaotung Peninsula, a blow to the national pride as severe as it was unexpected. A conflict between Japan and Russia became almost inevitable. The ministry at once began a policy of naval and military expansion. Taxes were increased and sums far larger than the indemnity received from China were spent in preparation for the coming struggle. Japan's leaders saw that if she was to win from European powers the recognition of her right to a voice in Far Eastern affairs, she must have an effective armament.

With the growth of the army and navy, the position of the Satsuma and Choshu groups was strengthened. The ex- samurai of these former fiefs of the South had succeeded in controlling the fighting arms of the nation, and now with the great program of preparedness, exerted a much stronger influence than formerly over all the policies of the government. They stood, very naturally, for territorial expansion and for a vigorous policy on the continent. They did not want for opposition, as we shall see a little later, but the force of events aided them in committing Japan to a policy of imperialism, a policy that has since led her into three wars and has made of her an important factor in world-politics.

The war with China spectacularly impressed on the world the importance and the thoroughness of the transformation that had been wrought in Japan in the preceding forty years. With one or two exceptions, and then only when great provocation had been given, the Japanese had throughout the struggle scrupulously observed the regulations of the international law of the Occident. They had demonstrated their ability to use the weapons and organization of the West.

Japan was not, however, to attain easily to a full recognition of her claim to a voice in the affairs of China, to a predominant interest in Korea, and to an open door into Manchuria. As a reward for her interference in 1895, Russia was given by Peking the privilege of building the trans- Siberian railway that was to bind together her Siberian and European possessions, directly across Northern Manchuria to Vladivostok. It need not, as was originally planned, follow the more tortuous all-Russian route along the Amur and the Ussuri. This would, of course, give the Czar a decided hold on Northern Manchuria, which was admittedly Chinese territory. Russia guaranteed a loan raised in Paris by China to pay off the indemnity due Japan, an act which might be the precedent for a financial protectorate over the great Middle Kingdom and which at least seemed to impose on Peking a debt of gratitude to St. Petersburg. Russian intrigues continued in Korea and served greatly to embarrass the Japanese. The latter, in fact, played directly into the hands of Russia by a bungling management of their interests in Seoul. The Japanese agent there I was implicated in an attack on the royal palace that resulted in the murder of the queen and the escape of the king to the Russian legation, where he lived for two years. Many Japanese merchants and settlers in the peninsula needlessly antagonized the Koreans by an overbearing attitude, dishonest business dealings, and even violence. Tokyo had good reason to fear that the agents of St. Petersburg would obtain more than a passing hold on Korea, and from that vantage point embarrass Japan's commerce with the continent and threaten her coasts.

Then in 1897 began a scramble of European powers for leased territories and spheres of influence in China. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century Western nations were entering on a new period of colonial expansion. Africa had recently been divided, unclaimed islands of the sea were being occupied, and the territorial integrity of all weak nations was threatened. China's impotence had been made unmistakably apparent in her war with Japan, and European powers were not slow to take advantage of it. In 1897, Germany availed herself of the murder of some of her subjects-missionaries-by a Chinese mob, and demanded a ninety-nine year lease on the strategic harbor of Kiao Chau in the province of Shantung, where the outrage had taken place. Here she began building a model city, Tsingtao, and connected it with the interior by railway lines for which she had been granted concessions. She was given the privilege, too, of working the valuable coal mines of the province. A little later Russia, as compensation, demanded and obtained a lease on Port Arthur and Dalny on that Liaotung Peninsula of which she had deprived Japan scarcely three years before. She connected them with the Siberian railway by a branch line which China ostensibly had the right of purchasing at the expiration of a certain number of years. A Russo-Chinese bank was established, professedly a joint enterprise of the two nations, as the name indicates, but with the first-named partner predominant. Russia had thus obtained what was for most of the year an ice-free terminus for her Siberian railway and was in a position to dominate all Manchuria and North China. She could effectively block Japanese commercial and industrial expansion by virtually closing the Ports of Manchuria to all non-Russian trade. And this she tried to do. Great Britain, it may be added, at the same time obtained a lease on Wei-hai-wei, the fortified harbor that commanded the approach to Peking from the Shantung side, and marked out for herself a "sphere of influence" in the Yangtze Valley within which she was to have the preference in commerce and in providing capital for railways, industry, and mines. France was given a lease and a sphere of influence in South China. Neither Great Britain or France were as yet to be serious rivals of Japan, however.


Following this "leasing" of her territory and the partitioning of the empire into spheres of influence there was a reform movement in China. Led by the young emperor, the progressives made a serious effort to reorganize their nation, as Japan had done, by adopting Occidental methods. A reaction followed which culminated in the uprising of 1900, an armed attempt, led by the Boxers and sanctioned by the imperial court, to rid the land of the Westerner. The foreign residents in Peking were besieged in the legation quarter and Christian missionaries and their converts were killed in exposed stations throughout North China. Japan was looked to by the powers to help restore order, and joined in a relief expedition that rescued the beleaguered foreigners in Peking. By the discipline and efficiency of her contingent she won the respect of the world and demonstrated her right to a voice in all international councils over Chinese affairs.


Russia had taken advantage of the Boxer disturbances to rush troops into Manchuria, ostensibly to protect her citizens and her property. After the uprising was over she still maintained her forces in that region and seemed determined on a permanent occupation. Japan protested, and the United States, newly aroused to an interest in the Far East by her entrance into the Philippines, attempted to insure in Manchuria, as elsewhere in China, the principle of territorial integrity and the "open door," or equal economic and political privileges for the citizens of all nations. Russia at times seemed to comply and promised to remove her troops. In reality she had no serious intention of yielding and sought an agreement with China which would virtually have turned Manchuria into a Russian province and which failed only because of the strong protests of the United States, Great Britain, and Japan. She did, however, obtain special privileges in the coveted region and in 1903 appointed a "viceroy" to administer her interests on the Amur and in Manchuria, treating the latter region almost as though it were already her own.

It became increasingly evident to Japan that she must fight. Russia seemingly had no intention of withdrawing from Manchuria and declined seriously to recognize the Japanese claim to a voice in the affairs of that district. Should she stay she would probably succeed in keeping the door closed and in crippling the growth of Japanese commerce. She would certainly threaten Japanese interests in Korea. Japan sought by every honorable means to avoid an appeal to arms. She tried negotiations, but the Russians would not concede that she had any right to be heard in Manchurian questions, and although they acknowledged that she had special interests in Korea, they insisted on placing restrictions on her control of that kingdom. Japan would probably have welcomed an alliance with Russia had the latter been willing to make what seemed to Tokyo a fair division of influence in the Far East. This alliance, indeed, was a favorite aim of Ito.

Foreseeing the approaching conflict, Japan continued to strengthen her army and navy and entered into a pact with Great Britain. This Anglo-Japanese Alliance, concluded early in 1902, was limited in its scope to China and Korea, and recognized the special interests of Great Britain in China and of Japan in China and Korea. It provided that in case either ally went to war with another power to defend these interests the other would remain neutral and would use its influence to keep other powers from attacking its ally. In case one or more additional powers were to join in the hostilities against one ally, the other agreed to come to its assistance. The two were to make war and peace together. The agreement was to be in force for five years. England was beginning to see threatened the dominant commercial position she had held in China in the earlier years of the nineteenth century and especially feared Russian aggression. She was quite willing to see Japan attack her rival. The agreement was, however, chiefly of benefit to Japan, for it gave her the prestige of alliance with the leading financial, naval, and commercial power of the world, and virtually insured the isolation of Russia in the coming struggle: other European powers would probably not care to join the Czar at the expense of a war with England. It gave to Japan, too, the much needed support of the London bankers.


Even with the British alliance the outcome of a war with Russia was by no means a certain victory for Japan, and the latter sought by long negotiations to preserve peace. St. Petersburg persistently refused to grant Japan's demands and seemingly held her in contempt. The Japanese offered to recognize Manchuria as outside their sphere of influence providing Russia would similarly state that Korea was outside her own sphere. This St. Petersburg refused to do. Not only that, but Russian activities at Seoul and on the southern coast and northern frontiers of Korea convinced Tokyo that the imperialists in charge of the Czar's government were engaged in a deliberately aggressive policy in the peninsula itself. From Japan's standpoint the only alternative was war. Both powers had been actively preparing but Japan obtained the initial advantage by a prompt attack following the severance of diplomatic relations (February, 1904). For over a year hostilities continued. Russia fought under a handicap; the field of battle was thousands of miles from her European possessions, the source of most of her men and supplies, and the only connecting link was a single-track railway; her administration, particularly of her navy, was handicapped by corruption and incompetency. The Japanese were near home and were splendidly organized and led. Their courage, ability, and efficiency were the surprise and admiration of the neutral world. The Russian armies resisted stubbornly but were steadily driven back. The Czar's fleets which might have imperiled Japan's communication with her armies on the continent, were destroyed or penned up in Port Arthur. Port Arthur itself was captured after a desperate resistance, and a few weeks later Mukden, the capital of Manchuria, fell before the Japanese attack. The Baltic fleet, after a famous cruise around the Cape of Good Hope, was destroyed in the Straits of Tsushima between Japan and Korea in the "Battle of the Sea of Japan." The island empire's command of the eastern seas could no longer be endangered. In spite of her reverses Russia was by no means crushed: but for internal disturbances she might still have persisted and won. The war was, however, unpopular at home, and when a revolution broke out St. Petersburg was quite ready to begin peace negotiations. The Japanese statesmen were equally willing to negotiate. Success on the field of battle had so far been with them, but their finances, already overloaded by the years of preparation, were threatening to give way under the strain of prolonged war. The island empire was not a wealthy land and could not continue to borrow indefinitely. Consequently when President Roosevelt offered his mediation both powers welcomed it.

The resulting negotiations were held at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and were concluded (September, 1905) by the treaty bearing the name of that city. By this treaty (1) Japan's "paramount political, military, and economic interests" in Korea were recognized; (2) the simultaneous evacuation of Korea by both was agreed upon; (3) Russia transferred to the Japanese the lease of the portions of the Liaotung peninsula held by her, and her railways and mining privileges in Southern Manchuria; (4) the southern half of Sakhalin was given to Japan by Russia; (5) certain fishing privileges were conceded to Japanese in the seas to the North and West of their islands; and (6) each power was to reimburse the other for the expense of the maintenance of prisoners of war, the balance being in favor of the Japanese by about twenty million dollars. In addition (7) each was allowed to keep armed railway guards in Manchuria up to a certain specified maximum per mile of track, (8) neither was to fortify Sakhalin or use the Manchurian railways for strategic purposes, and (9) both were to restore and respect Chinese sovereignty in Manchuria except in the leased territory, and were to maintain there the open door of equal commercial and industrial opportunity to all nations.

The treaty was intensely unpopular in Japan. The mass of the nation had expected a large indemnity and the victory had seemed so decisive that the terms of peace appeared not to have given the victor all she had justly earned by her success and her sacrifice of blood and treasure. The Japanese envoys at Portsmouth had at the beginning of the negotiations demanded a large indemnity, probably not in the expectation of obtaining it, but as a diplomatic move to induce the Russians to make larger concessions of territory than they would have made had they thought their opponents would accept peace without a money payment. The demand for the indemnity was dropped at the proper moment, but the Japanese public did not understand the game that had been played and was bitterly and angrily disappointed. Even the United States shared temporarily in the abuse heaped by the populace on the treaty, for its president had acted as mediator and had intervened to prevent the rupture of the peace conference, and it was on American soil that the negotiations had been carried on.


And yet Japan's imperialists had every reason to be satisfied with her gains. She had blocked the Russian advance and had established herself firmly in Korea and Southern Manchuria. She had risen to the position of a world power; she was the one non-European nation since the wave of Turkish invasion had begun to subside that had faced successfully on the field of battle a first-class Occidental power. Her victory was heralded all through the East and gave heart to the nationalist and reform movements in Persia, India, and China. Far Eastern peoples, however little they might like her, looked to her as a model and as a prophecy of independence from the yoke of the European. Japan had demonstrated that the Westerner was not invincible. He could be defeated with his own weapons.

Japan's prestige was greatly increased in the Occident. In August, 1905, while the Portsmouth negotiations were still in progress, the Anglo-Japanese affiance was renewed. The maintenance of the peace of the Far East, the integrity of China and the open door into that land were provided for, as in the last agreement. The scope of the alliance was extended to India and the Far East in general, an advantage to England, and Japan's special interests in Korea were again recognized. In case the rights of either power within the prescribed areas were assailed even by one outside power the other was to come to the aid of its ally. England was still fearful of Russia, and desired support in case of a possible attack on India. The alliance, it might be well to add, was again renewed in 1911, this time also, as in 1905, for ten years. The triple entente had by this time been formed by England, France and Russia, and British fear of the latter's aggression on India and China had been removed, at least for the time; but Germany was now looming on the horizon as a very possible danger and it seemed wise to have an agreement with Japan in the event of attack from that quarter. The only changes of importance in the last renewal were the omission of reference to Korea, which, as we shall see later, was annexed by Japan in 1910, and the provision that neither power should by the alliance be drawn into war with a nation with which it had a treaty of general arbitration. This last change, in the eyes of many, was designed to release England from any obligation to help Japan in the event of war between the latter and the United States, for Great Britain had lately negotiated with America a treaty-which had not yet been ratified-of the kind specified. But it is well to note that Japan had in 1909 also concluded a treaty of arbitration with the United States. In that same year the latter two nations had also, by the Root-Takahira agreement, expressly declared to each other that their policy was to maintain the status quo and to respect each other's territorial possessions in the Pacific, to preserve the independence and integrity of China and the open door, and to communicate with each other as to the proper action to be taken in case those principles were threatened. France and Russia in 1907 both entered into agreements with Japan for the joint support of the peace of the Far East, recognizing the independence and integrity of China. This was a natural accompaniment of the formation in the same year of the triple entente. By these agreements and others to be mentioned later, Japan made certain the recognition of her voice in Far Eastern affairs. She could no longer, as before 1894 or even before 1904, be ignored or treated lightly.

For further reading see: Brinkley, Japan, Its History, Arts and Literature; Brinkley, A History of the Japanese People; Asakawa, The Russo-Japanese Conflict; The Secret Memoirs of Count Hayashi; Hornbeck, Contemporary Politics in she Far East.