Imperial Expansion, The Russo-Japanese War
Battle of Tsushima, Treaty of Portsmouth, Karafuto, Meiji emperor, land war
When diplomatic negotiations failed to dislodge the Russians, the Japanese decided to go to war. In 1904 the Japanese navy attacked the Russian fleet at Port Arthur. The Russo-Japanese War that followed was more daunting to the Japanese leaders than the First Sino-Japanese War had been. While Japanese armies won a series of early battles, the land war bogged down by early 1905. Only the complete annihilation of a vast Russian fleet at the May 1905 Battle of Tsushima finally brought the Russians to the negotiating table. The Treaty of Portsmouth, mediated with the help of U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt, gave Japan control over the Liaodong Peninsula, the railroad line in southern Manchuria, and the southern half of the island of Sakhalin (later known as Karafuto). The Russians also recognized Japan’s paramount interests in Korea.
Shortly after the end of the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese established a protectorate over Korea. The Korean court and the traditional Korean elite resisted the Japanese political intrusion. When the Japanese ousted the Korean king from the throne in 1907, anti-Japanese guerrilla activities spread quickly throughout the Korea Peninsula. In 1910, after three years of often brutal fighting, the Japanese finally annexed Korea to Japan under the name Chosen. The Japanese colonial government adopted a harshly repressive policy toward the Korean population, but it also embarked on a program of introducing modern institutions and developing the agricultural economy.
With the acquisition of Korea, the Meiji leaders rounded out a defensive perimeter of colonial possessions stretching from Taiwan in the south, through Korea in the west, to Karafuto in the north. They had also established Japan as one of the world’s great powers, side by side with the United States and the major European countries. The Western powers were quick to accept the Japanese colonial sphere in East Asia, and they regarded Japan’s military and naval prowess with admiration as well as concern. By the time of his death in 1912, the Meiji emperor, whose reign had begun when the humiliation of Japan’s unequal diplomatic status was still fresh, stood among the ranks of the world’s leading monarchs.
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