Russo-Japanese War: Japan Must Be Reckoned With

Russo-Japanese War: Japan Must Be Reckoned With

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At the conclusion of the Boxer Rebellion, the major powers agreed to remove their expeditionary forces from China, except for those soldiers occupying Beijing. The evacuation was completed in the fall of 1901 by all nations except Russia, which maintained a large presence in Manchuria and northern Korea.The Japanese had undergone rapid westernization at the end of the 19th century and developed a strong commercial position in China. They viewed the continuing presence of Russia as a threat to their access to those valuable Chinese resources.Efforts by the great powers to ease tensions between Russia and Japan made little progress. Japan quickly filled the vacuum.The Russo-Japanese War was fought on Chinese soil with China a neutral observer. The most notable encounter was the destruction of the Russian fleet in May 1905 at Tsushima Strait, the area between the Sea of Japan (East Sea) and the East China Sea.Both sides, however, desired peace. Theodore Roosevelt offered mediation, summoning representatives of the warring parties to Portsmouth, New Hampshire in the summer of 1905. Peace was concluded in September and provided for the following:

  • Both Japan and Russia pledged to withdraw from Manchuria
  • Russia turned over a number of valuable port leases in China to Japan
  • Japan received the southern half of Sakhalin Island in the Sea of Okhotsk north of Japan.

One important item was not included in the final peace terms—reparations. Japan, staggering under the cost of the war, had sought $600 million from Russia. Roosevelt refused to accept this provision, a slight the Japanese would long remember.The Russo-Japanese War was a major embarrassment to Russia, which became the first major modern European power to be defeated by an Asian nation. Public outrage played prominently in the Russian Revolution of 1905. Japan, however, emerged as a world power and believed that its hegemony in the Far East would be unchallenged.

See other foreign affairs issues under Theodore Roosevelt.

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