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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Together with the transport Sungari


THE

CHEMULPO AFFAIR

While these things were happening at Port Arthur, a squadron of the Japanese navy, under Admiral Uryu, escorted a number of transports to Chemulpo, the port of the Korean capital, Seoul. There the Russian protected cruiser Variag (6500 tons) together with the gunboat Korietz and the transport Sungari were lying. It does not appear that Admiral Uryu's prime object was to engage these Russian ships. But Chemulpo having been chosen as the principal landing-place of the Japanese army corps which was to operate in Korea, it was, of course, imperative that the harbour should be cleared of Russian war-vessels. On February 8th, the Russians at Chemulpo were surprised by a summons from Admiral Uryu to leave the port or undergo bombardment at their anchorage. The vessels stood out bravely to sea, and after an engagement lasting thirty-five minutes at ranges varying from five to ten thousand yards, they were so badly injured that they returned to the port and were sunk by their own crews, together with the transport Sungari. The moral effect of the destruction of these vessels was incalculable.

DECLARATION OF WAR

On the 10th of February, the Czar and the Mikado respectively issued declarations of war. The former laid stress upon Russia's pacific intentions in proposing revision of the agreements already existing between the two empires with regard to Korean affairs, and

accused the Japanese of making a sudden attack on the Russian squadron at Port Arthur "without previously notifying that the rupture of diplomatic relations implied the beginning of warlike action." The Japanese declaration insisted that the integrity of Korea was a matter of the gravest concern to Japan, inasmuch as the separate existence of the former was essential to the safety of the latter, and charged that "Russia, in disrespect of her solemn treaty pledges to China and of her repeated assurances to other powers, was still in occupation of Manchuria, had consolidated and strengthened her hold upon those provinces, and was bent upon their final annexation." With regard to Russia's accusation against Japan of drawing the sword without due notice, a distinguished British publicist made the following comment in the columns of The Times (London):

"Far from thinking the Japanese attack on the night of February 8th, two full days after the announcement of the intention to take action, was an exception to, or a deviation from, tradition and precedent, we should rather count ourselves fortunate if our enemy, in the next naval war we have to wage, does not strike two days before blazoning forth his intention, instead of two days after. The tremendous and decisive results of success for the national cause are enough to break down all the restraining influences of the code of international law and Christian morality."

THE FIRST MILITARY OPERATIONS

From the moment when war became inevitable, the problem of absorbing interest was to determine Russia's strategy, and it was ultimately seen that the two main groups of her forces were to be posted at Port Arthur and on the Yalu; the latter to resist an advance from Korea, and the former to defend the Liaotung peninsula, which constituted the key of the Russian position. Between the mouth of the Yalu and the Liaotung peninsula, a distance of 120 miles, there were many points where raiding parties might have been landed to cut the Russian railway. Against this danger, flying squadrons of Cossacks were employed. After the destruction of the three Russian vessels in Chemulpo and the crippling of the Port Arthur squadron, Japanese transports entered the former port and quietly landed some three thousand troops, which advanced immediately upon Seoul and took possession of it.


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