« PreviousContinue »
no practical value, for the elementary reason that, “ treaty rights of Powers in Manchuria being only co-existing with the sovereignty of China over that province, an eventual absorption of Manchuria by Russia would annul at once those rights and privileges acquired by the Powers in that region by virtue of treaties with China.”
The Japanese Government therefore deemed it indispensable
to induce Russia formally to recognise the terriThe
torial integrity of China in Manchuria. NevertheImpasse.
less they were prepared to make one considerable concession, for, while refusing to waive “for ever" the rights of settlement they had acquired in Manchuria by virtue of the Supplementary Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with China, they were willing to declare, " in the interest of a speedy and friendly conclusion of the negotiation, that they would not insist on the immediate execution of that right, regardless of the attitude of a third Power having the same right." But as regards Korea," there was absolutely no room for concession,” and on January 13 the Japanese Government requested Russia to reconsider that question, “and have since frequently urged them to send an early reply, but the Russian Government, so far from forwarding it, did not even indicate any date for it," and moreover,“while unduly delaying to hand their reply whenever they had to make one, they have, on the other hand, eagerly augmented their naval and military preparations in the Far East; in fact, large Russian forces are already on the Korean frontier." The Japanese Government close their remarkable review of the negotiations with the statement, which they are fully entitled to make, as it expresses the exact truth, that in the sincere desire to secure peace they “have been exercising the utmost degree of patience, but now they are reluctantly compelled by the action of Russia to give up all hopes of reconciliation, to break off the negotiation, and to take such independent actions as may be necessary for defending Japan's rights and interests.”
Very different are the tone and temper of the Russian Exposi
tion, which was issued from St. Petersburg on The Russian Case.
February 9. There is throughout an offensive
assumption of superiority over the Japanese as altogether inferior beings, with whom Russia can scarcely deign to negotiate. In fact, she behaves like a haughty suzerain towards an impertinent vassal—an attitude which has justifiably exasperated the Japanese, who have every right to regard them
selves as the equals of the Russians, or of any other civilised Power.
acquired there by Powers through treaties with China. A declaration to this effect has also been made to the foreign Cabinets." We cannot recall a weaker or more unconvincing State Paper. It does not attempt to meet the case presented by Japan or impair in any respect the strength of her diplomatic position. The Russian communiqué closes with the really childish complaint -considering the exasperating delays already endured and the use being made of them—that the Tokio Cabinet, "without even awaiting this reply, decided to break off negotiations and suspend diplomatic intercourse with Russia.”
The rupture between the two Powers, and the mutual recall of
their Ambassadors together with their entire Japanese
staffs, was elsewhere interpreted as the end of Achievements.
the diplomatic period and the commencement of the military period. Apparently, however, the Russian Government imagined that they would be able to continue trifling with the Japanese until they had completed their lamentably deficient preparations. St. Petersburg was greatly shocked to learn three days later that Russia had sustained the first of that series of naval disasters which have dealt a heavy blow at Russian prestige, and have for the time being reduced her to a secondclass naval Power. In the wordsof Admiral Alexeieff's firstdespatch, “ About midnight between January 26 and 27 (February 8 and 9), Japanese torpedo-boats delivered a sudden mine attack on the squadron lying in the Chinese roads at Port Arthur, the battleships Retvisan and Cesarevitch and the cruiser Pallada being holed.” As the brilliant initiative of our Japanese ally has excited hypocritical fulminations against her "treachery” from Russia and Russian satellites, it is as well to remember that if the days of formal declarations of war are over, it is largely owing to the action of Russia herself, who commenced both the Crimean War of 1853 and the Turkish War of 1877 without formalities. Had she been ready in the present instance, we may be sure she would not have hesitated to strike. There is, indeed, some doubt as to whether the first shot came from a Russian or a Japanese gun, as it is asserted that the Russian gunboat Korietz opened fire on some Japanese transports and their naval escort off Chemulpho on February 8, some hours before the attack on Port Arthur. The Russian disaster at Port Arthur is partly attributed to the fact that the officers of the fleet were attending a ball given by Admiral Starck in honour of his wife's birthday, and as the Admiral has since been recalled, it is not ụncharitable to assume that he was found wanting. Admiral Alexeieff was obliged to follow up the disagreeable news that his two finest battleships had been torpedoed with the painful information that on the following day the attack on Port Arthur was renewed by a Japanese squadron, consisting of fifteen battleships and cruisers (under Admiral Togo), which succeeded in damaging another battleship, the Poltava, and three cruisers, the Diana, Askold, and Novik, all on the water-line. On the same day (February 9) another Japanese squadron, under Admiral Uriu, assembled off Chemulpho harbour in Korea, and summoned two Russian men-of-war, viz., the Variag, a crack armoured cruiser, and the gunboat Korietz, to leave this neutral port before noon. They objected, but ultimately they came out to as certain destruction as awaited Admiral Cervera's fleet off Santiago. The Variag was sunk and the Korietz was blown up, several hundred officers and men being taken prisoners. This episode enabled the Japanese to begin landing troops at Chemulpho, and M. Pavloff, the Russian Minister at Seoul, one of the authors of the present war, was politely escorted out of Korea. Disaster followed disaster, as two days later, on February 11, a Russian torpedo transport, the Yenesei, was accidentally blown up by a floating mine at Port Arthur ; while on February 13 and 14 the Japanese made wonderful torpedo attacks in a blinding snowstorm upon Port Arthur, and succeeded in torpedoing the Russian armoured cruiser Boyarin, while on the same day the Russian cruiser Kazan was said to have been struck by a Japanese shell. Altogether, some ten to twelve Russian ships have been either destroyed or crippled, while the Japanese Navy has been sensibly reinforced by the arrival of the two splendid cruisers purchased from the Argentine Government. It is true that the Russian Vladivostock squadron, consisting of four fine cruisers, is still at large, but so far it has served no useful purpose. It has entirely failed to hamper the Japanese landing in Korea, and in all probability it will shortly fall a prey to the Japanese fleet unless it becomes sealed up in Vladivostock harbour, in which case its doom will be delayed. By her series of striking successes, Japan has acquired command of the sea in the Far East, and until the battleships now building are finished, it is difficult to see how Russia can hope to challenge her rival at sea.
So far as can be made out from the mass of conflicting reports, Command of Japan's Sea Power remains intact, as no ship of
any importance has sustained serious damage, and the Sea.
according to her admirals' despatches, she would appear to have secured the priceless advantage of the command of the sea at a total loss of four lives. This war cannot fail to bring home even to the least imaginative of us the true meaning of naval supremacy. We see that Japan, ten days after the opening of hostilities, is in a position to shut off Russian naval reinforcements, while she can close the sea communications of the Russian army, and we must not forget that hitherto the ocean has been the principal highway for sustaining Russian military power in the Far East. She is also able, thanks to her command of the sea, to treat the mainland, which is inaccessible to her antagonist from the sea, as a part of Japanese territory. If the German military organ, the Militär Wochenblatt, is to be believed, Japan has in the first fortnight succeeded in putting into the field a larger force, viz., 160,000, than the Russian army, which has been accumulating in the Far East for the last four years. We get another glimpse of the value of sea-power in the interesting telegram from the Times military correspondent despatched on February 22 from Wei-hai-wei, after a visit he had been allowed to pay to Chemulpho harbour, which, owing to the elimination of the Russian naval menace, had become the Japanese base instead of some port on the Southern coast, which would have involved a wearisome march across Korea. Thus the naval victories have gained several weeks for the army. It would be idle to speculate upon the Japáñese plan of campaign, for her strategists evidently realise that success depends on secrecy, and every effort has been made to keep a close veil over the military movements. The fact that the Japanese should have allowed a correspondent to disclose the existence of an army corps at Chemulpho is interpreted in some quarters as an indication that the real blow will be struck by a greater force elsewhere, though whether the next episode will be, an encounter with the main Russian army which is said to be concentrating on the Yalu or the investment of Port Arthur, it would be rash to predict. That the great Russian naval base is seriously threatened is clear from the stampede of the Russian Headquarters Staff northwards, as well as from the exodus of all superfluous mouths.
That Russia has been staggered and temporarily demoralised
by the tremendous blows she has received from Can Russia
the enemy she despised is clear from the furious pull through?
and desperate communiqués issued in quick succession from St. Petersburg, which are evidently intended to prepare the public for military disappointments equal to the naval disasters. General Kuropatkin, the Russian War Minister, has been selected as the saviour of the situation, while the unhappy Admiral Starck is to be replaced by Admiral Makaroff