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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

But also despatched an army overland across the Yalu


Still

desirous of preserving the peace, Japan proposed a union between herself and China for the purpose of restoring order in Korea and amending that country's administration. China refused. She even expressed supercilious surprise that Japan, while asserting Korea's independence, should suggest the idea of peremptorily reforming its administration. The Tokyo Cabinet now announced that the Japanese troops should not be withdrawn without "some understanding that would guarantee the future peace, order, and good government of Korea," and as China still refused to come to such an understanding, Japan undertook the work single-handed.

The Tonghak rebellion, which Chinese troops were originally sent to quell, had died of inanition before they landed. The troops, therefore, had been withdrawn. But China kept them in Korea, her avowed reason being the presence of the Japanese military force near Seoul. In these circumstances, Peking was notified that a despatch of re-enforcements on China's side must be construed as an act of hostility. Notwithstanding this notice, China not only sent a further body of troops by sea to encamp at Asan, but also despatched an army overland across the Yalu. These proceedings precipitated hostilities. Three Chinese warships, convoying a transport with twelve hundred soldiers on board, met and opened fire on two Japanese cruisers. The result was signal. One of the Chinese warships was captured, another was so riddled with shot

that she had to be beached and abandoned; the third escaped in a dilapidated condition, and the transport, refusing to surrender, was sent to the bottom. These things happened on the 25th of July, 1894, and war was declared by each empire six days subsequently.

The Japanese took the initiative. They despatched from Seoul a column of troops and routed the Chinese entrenched at Asan, many of whom fled northward to Pyong-yang, a town on the Tadong River, memorable as the scene of a battle between a Chinese and a Japanese army in 1592. Pyong-yang offered great facilities for defence. The Chinese massed there a force of seventeen thousand men, and made preparations for a decisive contest, building parapets, mounting guns, and strengthening the position by every device of modern warfare. Their infantry had the advantage of being armed with repeating rifles, and the configuration of the ground offered little cover for an attacking army. Against this strong position the Japanese moved in two columns; one marching northward from Seoul, the other striking westward from Yuensan. Forty days elapsed before the Japanese forces came into action, and one day's fighting sufficed to carry all the Chinese positions, the attacking armies having only seven hundred casualties and the defenders, six thousand.

The next day, September 17th, Japan achieved an equally conspicuous success at sea. Fourteen Chinese warships and six torpedo-boats, steering homeward after convoying a fleet of transports to the mouth of the Yalu River, fell in with eleven Japanese war-vessels cruising in the Yellow Sea. The Chinese squadron was not seeking an encounter. Their commanding officer did not appear to appreciate the value of sea-power. His fleet included two armoured battle-ships of over seven thousand tons' displacement, whereas the Japanese had nothing stronger than belted cruisers of four thousand. Therefore a little enterprise on China's part might have severed Japan's maritime communications and compelled her to evacuate Korea. The Chinese, however, used their war-vessels as convoys only, keeping them carefully in port when no such duty was to be performed. It is evident that, as a matter of choice, they would have avoided the battle of the Yalu, though when compelled to fight they fought stoutly. After a sharp engagement, four of their vessels were sunk, and the remainder steamed into Weihaiwei, their retreat being covered by torpedo-boats.


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