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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Tsugaru Strait is practically under Japan's complete control


although the Tokyo Government sought to soften the situation by the grace of speedy acquiescence, the effect produced upon the nation was profound. There was no difficulty in appreciating the motives of Russia and France. It was natural that the former should object to the propinquity of a warlike people like the Japanese, and it was natural that France should remain true to her ally. But Germany's case defied interpretation. She had no interest in the ownership of Manchuria, and she professed herself a warm friend of Japan. It seemed, therefore, that she had joined in snatching from the lips of the Japanese the fruits of their victory simply for the sake of establishing some shadowy title to Russia's good-will.


In the second half of the year 1900 an anti-foreign outbreak, known as the "Boxer Rebellion," broke out in the province of Shantung, and, spreading thence to Pehchili, produced a situation of imminent peril for the foreign communities of Peking and Tientsin. No Western power could intervene with sufficient promptness. Japan alone was within easy reach of the commotion. But Japan held back. She had fully fathomed the distrust with which the growth of her military strength had inspired some European nations, and she appreciated the wisdom of not seeming to grasp at an opportunity for armed display. In fact, she awaited a clear mandate from Europe and America, and, on receiving

it, she rapidly sent a division (20,000 men) to Pehchili. Tientsin was relieved first, and then a column of troops provided by several powers, the Japanese in the van, marched to the succour of Peking. In this campaign the Japanese greatly enhanced their belligerent reputation as they fought under the eyes of competent military critics. Moreover, after the relief of the legations in Peking, they withdrew one-half of their forces, and they subsequently cooperated heartily with Western powers in negotiating peace terms, thus disarming the suspicions with which they had been regarded at first.


From the time (1895) when the three-power mandate dictated to Japan a cardinal alteration of the Shimonoseki treaty, Japanese statesmen concluded that their country must one day cross swords with Russia. Not a few Occidental publicists shared that view, but the great majority, arguing that the little Island Empire of the Far East would never risk annihilation by such an encounter, believed that forbearance sufficient to avert serious trouble would always be forthcoming on Japan's side. Yet neither geographical nor historical conditions warranted that confidence. The Sea of Japan, which, on the east, washes the shores of the Japanese islands and on the west those of Russia and Korea, has virtually only two routes communicating with the Pacific Ocean. One is in the north, namely, the Tsugaru Strait; the other is in the south, namely, the channel between the Korean peninsula and the Japanese island of Kyushu. Tsugaru Strait is practically under Japan's complete control; she can close it at any moment with mines. But the channel between the Korean peninsula and Kyushu has a width of 102 miles, and would therefore be a fine open seaway were it free from islands. Midway in this channel, however, lie the twin islands of Tsushima, and the space that separates them from Japan is narrowed by another island, Iki. Tsushima and Iki have belonged to Japan from time immemorial, and thus the avenues from the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of Japan are controlled by the Japanese empire. In other words, access to the Pacific from Korea's eastern and southern coasts, and access to the Pacific from Russia's Maritime Province depend upon Japan's good-will.

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