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No. 253.–March 1904
EPISODES OF THE MONTH
For many months the world had marvelled at the forbearance
of Japan in the face of the studiously provo
cative attitude of Russia, who combined a conRupture.
temptuous diplomacy with unceasing military preparations. On the one hand the Japanese could obtain no answer whatever to their clear and categorical demands, while on the other they saw their adversary steadily strengthening her land and sea power. It was consequently no surprise to learn from the Official Messenger, the organ of the Russian Government, that on February 6 Japanese patience had at last become exhausted. In the words of the Russian communiqué, “At the instance of his Government the Japanese Minister at the Imperial Court has handed a Note bringing to the notice of the Imperial Government the decision of Japan to cease further negotiations and to recall her Minister and the whole staff of her mission from St. Petersburg." To this the Emperor of Russia had responded by commanding that “the Russian Minister in Tokio, with the entire staff of the Imperial mission, shall leave forthwith.” In the opinion of the Russian Government, “ The action of the Japanese Government, which did not await even the handing to it of the answer of the Imperial Government despatched to it during the last few days, imposes upon Japan the entire responsibility for the consequences which may result from the breaking off of diplomatic relations between the two Empires." We do not think that any serious student of recent events in the Far East, or any fair-minded reader of the official papers containing the history of the negotiations which have since been
published by the two Powers in order to justify their respective positions, will be found to endorse the audacious assertion that Japan must bear “ the entire responsibility” for the rupture and its consequences. The very frank and lucid statement setting forth the Japanese case, so that all who run may read, is a complete vindication of the statesmen of Tokio from the charge of working for war. Throughout the negotiations they afforded Russia every opportunity of effecting a reasonable settlement. Indeed, the pro-Russian Party in this country have been completely reduced to silence by the moderation and sagacity of the Mikado's Government as contrasted with the extravagant pretensions and the deplorable diplomacy of those who for the time exercised the authority of the Tsar. The Japanese exposé opens with the statement that the independence and territorial integrity of Korea were absolutely indispensable to the safety and welfare of Japan. The Japanese Government were therefore unable to view with indifference any action endangering the position of Korea. Their attitude as regards Manchuria was equally explicit. Russia remained in occupation of that province of China regardless of her treaty engagements with the Pekin Government, and in defiance of her repeated assurances to the Powers; moreover, she had used her Manchurian position to encroach upon Korean territory. “ Should once Manchuria be annexed to Russia, the independence of Korea would naturally be impossible," as would doubtless be acknowledged by Russia herself, seeing that in 1895 “ Russia expressly intimated to Japan that the possession of the Liao-tung Peninsula by Japan would not only constitute a constant menace to the capital of China, but would render the independence of Korea illusory.” Under these circumstances the Japanese Government had
sought to secure a permanent peace in the Far A
East through direct negotiations with the Russian Retrospect.
Government, with a view to arriving at a friendly adjustment of mutual interests both in Manchuria and Korea, and officially communicated that desire so long ago as last July. Russia agreed to the proposed negotiations, and on August 12 the Japanese Minister in St. Petersburg presented a Basis of Agreement, which was substantially as follows:
1. A mutual engagement to respect the independence and territorial integrity of the Chinese and Korean Empires.
2. A mutual engagement to maintain the principle of the equal opportunity for the commerce and industry of all nations in those two countries.
3. Reciprocal recognition of Japan's preponderating interests in Korea and
Russia's special interests in railway enterprises in Manchuria, and mutual recognition of the right of Japan and of Russia respectively to take such measures as may be necessary for the protection of the above-mentioned respective interests in so far as the principle set forth in Article 1 is not infringed.
4. Recognition by Russia of the exclusive right of Japan to give advice and assistance to Korea in the interest of reform and good government in the Peninsular Empire.
5. An engagement on the part of Russia not to impede an eventual extension of the Korean Railway into Southern Manchuria so as to connect with the East China and Shan-hai-kwan and Niu-chwang lines. The Japanese Government had very wisely desired that the business should be transacted in St. Petersburg between the Japanese Minister and the Russian Foreign Office, “so that the progress of the negotiations might be facilitated and the solution of the situation be expedited as much as possible.” However, as we know, by this time the Alexeieff faction or War Party already dominated the situation, and on the plea of the Tsar's trip abroad or for other equally irrelevant reasons, the Japanese request was refused, The change of venue largely contributed to the war, because it substituted the Chauvinist Admiral Alexeieff for the pacific Count Lamsdorff, who was eliminated from the negotiations during their decisive phase, and only reintroduced in January when it was too late to save the situation. Russia procrastinated from the outset partly to show her contempt for her adversary and partly to push on her preparations, and it was not until October 3-i.e., nearly two monthsafter the Japanese proposals had been presented—that any serious counter-proposals were received in Tokio. Even then Russia refused to pledge herself to accept the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, or to recognise the principle of “equal opportunity” for all nations in China. Meanwhile two first-class battleships joined the Russian Far-Eastern Squadron, an accession of strength which in the opinion of some good judges gave her a preponderance of sea power. Russia requested Japan to formally declare Manchuria and its littoral as being entirely outside her sphere of interest, while simultaneously proposing several restrictions upon Japan's freedom of action in Korea. For instance, though recognising her right to despatch troops to Korea in case of necessity, Russia refused to allow Japan to make any strategic use of Korean territory, and proposed the creation of a neutral zone in Korea north of the 39th parallel. Upon these various proposals the Japanese comment is conclusive. The Tokio Government were wholly unable to see why Russia, who had repeatedly disclaimed any intention of absorbing Manchuria, should be unwilling to give a binding undertaking recognising the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. Moreover, Japan possessed important commercial interests in Manchuria, which were likely to develop in the future, while the juxtaposition of Manchuria and Korea make it impossible for her on political grounds to regard the former as outside her sphere of interest.
Japan therefore rejected the Russian proposals of October 3,
and suggested certain amendments, as, for Manchuria
instance, that if there was to be a neutral zone, and Korea.
it should in common fairness be established on both sides of the boundary-line between Manchuria and Korea. Considerable discussion followed, and the Japanese Government finally presented their definitive amendments on October 30; the usual delay followed and, in spite of constant pressure, they were unable to obtain any response from the Russian Government for another six weeks, i.e., until December 11, when Russia made another effort to confine the proposed Convention to Korea. She renewed her objection to the employment by Japan of any part of Korean territory for strategic purposes, and repeated her proposal for a neutral zone. Japan replied that the exclusion of Manchuria would nullify a settlement intended to remove every cause for conflict between the two countries both in Manchuria and Korea,” and she invited the Russian Government to reconsider their proposition, urging the removal of the restriction as to the strategic use of Korean territory, as well as the elimination of the clause constituting a neutral zone, for the unanswerable reason “that, if Russia is opposed to have it established equally on the Manchurian side, it should no more be established on the Korean side.” The usual delays ensued, and the last reply from Russia was only received in Tokio on January 6. She now proposed that the following clause should be inserted in the Agreement : “Recognition by Japan of Manchuria and its littoral as being outside her sphere of interests, while Russia within the limits of that province will not impede Japan or other Powers in the enjoyment of rights and privileges acquired by them under existing treaties with China, exclusive of the establishment of settlements." This proposal was, however, to be conditional on the creation of a neutral zone in Korean territory only, and the non-employment of any Korean territory for strategic purposes by Japan, to which, in view of the position assumed by Russia in Manchuria, it was impossible for the Japanese Government to assent. Moreover, the Russian reply made no mention of the territorial integrity of China in Manchuria, which rendered the undertaking as regards the other Powers of