Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact


SDHF Newsletter No. 388 The Road to the Greater East Asian War Part 15, Chapter 4 : The Inception of Discord between Japan and the US-1

Nakamura Akira, Dokkyo University Professor Emeritus

(English Translation: Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact)
Part 15, Chapter 4: The Inception of Discord between Japan and the US-1
Japan-US relations, which had been amicable for the half-century beginning in the Ansei era (1854-1860), deteriorated in the wake of the Russo-Japanese War. President Theodore Roosevelt’s words and deeds during the Russo-Japanese War demonstrated his cordiality toward Japan.
When Baron Kaneko first visited him, President Roosevelt announced that Japan would win the war, adding that “we must ensure that Japan emerges victorious.” He was so impressed with Nitobe Inazō’s Bushido: the Soul of Japan, introduced to him by Kaneko, that he ordered 30 copies to distribute to his friends and his children. Roosevelt even told Kaneko; “Looking at the situation in the Orient, I realize that Japan is the only nation that possesses the strength that independence requires. Japan should take the lead in adopting an Asian Monroe Doctrine. It is urgent that Japan help the nations of Asia to achieve independence. To prevent the nations of the West from seizing territory or otherwise encroaching on Asia, Japan must be sure to proclaim to the world that she is inaugurating an Asian version of the Monroe Doctrine.” If this idea had become reality, it is likely that war between Japan and China, and then Japan and the US, would not have broken out.
However, when the Russo-Japanese War was nearly over, Roosevelt began to fear Japan, as seen in the following personal message to Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge: “Most certainly the Japanese soldiers and sailors have shown themselves to be terrible foes. There can be none more dangerous in all the world.”
The essence of the subsequent Japan-US conflict lay in Japan’s continental Asia policy, which asserted a special relationship with China and Manchuria, and American Far Eastern policy, which was based on the Open Door Policy. Hayashi Fusao wrote a book titled Affirmation of the Greater East Asian War, in which he maintains that the conflict began during the Kōka era (1844-1848). But I view the real conflict as beginning with US interference in the railways of Manchuria.
The Treaty of Portsmouth prescribed the transfer of the Russian lease on the Liaodong peninsula, and the South Manchuria Branch of the Chinese Eastern Railway to Japan. However, Chinese consent to the transfer of interests was required because China was signatory to a treaty with Russia. After the conclusion of the Portsmouth Treaty, Japan and China signed a pact in Beijing stating that China had consented to the transfer of those interests. This was the Treaty of Manchuria.
In later years China, riding on an upsurge of nationalism, repudiated all Japanese interests in Manchuria, and using what is referred to as “revolutionary diplomacy,” attempted to unilaterally regain possession of Port Arthur, Dalian, and the South Manchuria Railway. That maneuver generated friction between Japan and China, and was one of the causes of the Manchurian Incident. The Hull Note, issued by the US at around the time war broke out between Japan and the US, contained language denying that Japan lawfully acquired leases on the Liaodong peninsula and the South Manchurian Railway via the Portsmouth Treaty (negotiations for which were mediated by the US!) and the Treaty of Manchuria.
In November 1909, US Secretary of State Philander Knox put forward what are now referred to as his “neutralization proposals.” One of them involved having an international syndicate lend China the funds to purchase all railways in Manchuria; the syndicate would administer the railways until China repaid the loan. This so-called “dollar diplomacy” was intended to implement the Open Door Policy in Manchuria using the power of the US dollar. However, not only Japan but also Russia strongly opposed this proposal; the UK and France sided with Japan and Russia. Knox’s attempt failed, but US interference in Manchuria continued.

MOTEKI Hiromichi, Chairman
Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact