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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Having conceded much to Russia in the way of the Amur


geographical conditions had no great concern for Korea in former days. But with Russia the case was different. Vladivostok, the principal port in the Far East, lay at the southern extremity of the Maritime Province. Freedom of passage by the Tsushima Strait was therefore a matter of vital importance, and to secure it one of two things was essential, namely, that she herself should possess a fortified port on the Korean side, or that Japan should be restrained from acquiring such a port. Here, then, was a strong inducement for Russian aggression in Korea. When the eastward movement of the great northern power brought it to the mouth of the Amur, the acquisition of Nikolaievsk for a naval basis was the immediate reward. But Nikolaievsk, lying in an inhospitable region, far away from all the main routes of the world's commerce, offered itself only as a stepping-stone to further acquisitions. To push southward from this new port became an immediate object.

There lay an obstacle in the way. The long strip of seacoast from the mouth of the Amur to the Korean frontier--an area then called the Usuri region because that river forms part of its western boundary--belonged to China, and she, having conceded much to Russia in the way of the Amur, showed no inclination to make further concessions in the matter of the Usuri. She was persuaded to agree, however, that the region should be regarded as common property, pending a convenient opportunity for clear

delimitation. That opportunity soon came. Seizing the moment (1860) when China had been beaten to her knees by England and France, Russia secured the final cession of the Usuri region, which then became the Maritime Province of Siberia. Then Russia shifted her naval basis in the Pacific to a point ten degrees south from Nikolaievsk, namely, Vladivostok. Immediately after this transfer an attempt was made to obtain possession of Tsushima. A Russian man-of-war proceeded thither, and quietly began to establish a settlement which would soon have constituted a title of ownership had not Great Britain interfered. The same instinct that led Russia from the mouth of the Amur to Vladivostok prompted the acquisition of Saghalien also, which, as already related, was accomplished in 1875.

But all this effort did not procure for Russia an unobstructed avenue from Vladivostok to the Pacific or an ice-free port in the Far East. In Korea seemed to lie a facile hope of saving the maritime results of Russia's great trans-Asian march from Lake Baikal to the Maritime Province and to Saghalien. Korea seemed to offer every facility for such an enterprise. Her people were unprogressive; her resources undeveloped; her self-defensive capacities insignificant; her government corrupt. On the other hand, it could not be expected that Japan and China would acquiesce in any aggressions against their neighbour, Korea, and it became necessary that Russia should seek some other line of communication supplementing the Amur waterway and the long ocean route. Therefore she set about the construction of a railway across Asia. This railway had to be carried along the northern bank of the Amur where engineering and economic difficulties abound. Moreover, the river makes a huge semicircular sweep northward, and a railway following its northern bank to Vladivostok must make the same detour. If, on the

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