Find a Security Clearance Job!


Meiji Imperial Ambitions

When in 1859 Japan emerged from her long isolation into international interests and affairs and became a trading nation, Japanese statesmen claimed that the "guiding factor" of the foreign policy of Japan - a country over crowded and endowed with scant resources- is the "instinct of self-preservation," directed against menaces both from within and from without, and primarily expressed in plans for the solution of the Chinese question ("the molding of Asia's destiny") but also in plans for conversion into a great commercial nation. Its statesmen, disciples of Disraeli and Chamberlain, wish to found an immense empire under the tutelage of the Asiatic England, insular and proud as the United Kingdom itself. The prevailing Japanese imperialists' notion of the world was that Japan was the leader of East Asia and the Pacific; therefore the future and the world are to Japan, and East Asia under Japan.

Count Okuma, leader of the Japanese imperialists, stated that South America was comprised in the sphere of influence to which the Japanese Empire may legitimately pretend. The completion of the Isthmian Canal placed the United States nearer than Japan to the western coasts of Mexico and South America, and closer to Japanese doctrine in regard to the control of Asia. The overflow of surplus landless Japanese population, which after 1905 found an outlet in Korea, has started a migratory movement across the Pacific to undeveloped Latin America - especially to Mexico, also to Peru and Chile, and even to Brazil. There was concern that Japanese expansion might in time provoke agitation and alarm among the native populations, and possibly result in conditions inducing the Japanese government to threaten the use of force to protect its subjects, and thus compel the Latin American governments to appeal to the United States for protection under the Monroe doctrine.

Uneasy on account of the North American peril, certain writers of the Latin American democracies entertain a certain amount of confidence in the sympathies of Japan; perhaps they even count upon an alliance with the Empire of the Rising Sun. But we cannot see, with the brilliant Argentine writer Manuel Ugarte, that Latin diplomacy must henceforth count upon Japan, because the hostility between that nation and the United States might be successfully exploited at the proper moment. In the commercial battles for the domination of the Pacific Japan does not support the autonomy of Latin America; her statesmen and publicists considered that Peru, Chili, and Mexico are spheres of Japanese expansion.

In late 1911, reports surfaced that a private Japanese company -- assumed to be acting at the behest of the Japanese government -- was negotiating with the Mexican government to obtain a lease for a coaling station in Magdalena Bay, on the Pacific coast of northern Mexico. In 1912 Henry Cabot Lodge introduced a resolution, a new corollary of the Monroe doctrine, to put the US on record opposing the move. The Lodge Resolution passed with only two dissenting votes, but was not accepted by President Taft.

Toward Hawaii, in which there was a large Japanese population, Japanese jingoes, disappointed by the American annexation of 1898, still entertained ambitions not reconcilable with American interests- although there is no evidence that their irrepressible chauvinism is shared by responsible statesmen at Tokio. Toward the nearer but tropical, thickly settled Philippines, in which there is no large Japanese population, but a discordant population possibly of distant kin, Japanese imperialists and ardent expansionists after the close of tihe Russo-Japanese war turned their awakened thought in favor of tropical colonies, and perhaps they may be the advance guard of future Japanese policy on a question possibly not yet completely settled in American policy.

Although the useless protest made at the time of annexation was soon officially withdrawn, the disappointment to which the protest gave expression has not disappeared, nor can we expect it to as long as the Japanese in the islands outnumber all the other elements put together and are several times as numerous as the Americans. Geographically, Hawaii is almost as much a natural outpost of Japan as it is of the United States, and would be invaluable to her for either defensive or offensive purposes. Since could hardly be pretended that the Japanese there are inferior to the natives, they cannot in justice remain indefinitely deprived of the vote; but, if they get it, they may profit by their numbers to agitate in favor of union with their former country. We need not wonder, then, that there are patriotic subjects of the Mikado who still hope to see his authority extended over this, the first conquest of Japanese colonization.

Admitting that Japanese imperialists of the usual type were animated by a desire to get the Philippines, there was no reason to think that their feeling was shared by responsible statesmen in Tokyo. Nor was there evidence that the latter ever had designs on the islands when they were under Spanish rule, although this spectre was made use of by malcontent Filipinos, and troubled men's minds in Madrid. A few Filipino insurgents at the time of the last rising against Spain sought refuge in Japan, where the movement in which they were engaged awakened a certain amount of sympathy, and suggested tempting possibilities, but never received real help. Japan was just then taken up with plans in another direction, and at the moment of the transfer of the Philippines to the United States she gave no sign of resentment. The desire of the Japanese for the islands, such as it was, and their objection to the presence of the Americans there, dated rather from the Great War, which so mightily stimulated their national self-confidence and ambition.

Toward China, concerning which before 1905 there was complete harmony of American-Japanese interests and policy, Japanese policy since 1905 has changed, in accord with a claim of "natural liberators and protectors of China from servitude to Europeans," and as a result of increasing American-Japanese commercial competition in the Pacific and Far East. After the close of the 1905 war against Russia, fought single-handed, and professedly in support of an open door policy, Japan, confronted by a resumption of the Russia policy of encroachment on China, fearing the failure of any further contest to secure more decisive results, and especially apprehensive of German designs, surprised the United States and the world by negotiating a friendly agreement of alliance with Russia in 1916 as a means of security in the development of Japanese enterprise in Manchuria. By this significant convention each party agreed not to "become a party to any arrangement or political combination* directed against the other, and to "act in concert on the measures to be taken" in case of menace to the territorial rights or special interests of either in the Far East.

The detailed program of co-operation between Japan and the Entente Allies looked to the reduction of the strong German fortress at Tsingtau in China, the possession and occupation of all German colonies in the Pacific, the clearing of the seas of German commerce-raiders, the convoying of French transports from China (with laborers) and Annam (with soldiers), and the British and colonial ships, with troops from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and the sending of a fleet of destroyers to the Mediterranean. The dispatch of three divisions, with the blockading fleet (20,000 men with 162 guns) under General Kamio, to Tsingtau, compelled the surrender of that fortress on 7 Nov. 1914, and the occupation of the German area in China, with a garrisoning force, was made under General Otani. One by one the German colonies in the Pacific were taken over by Japan and the seas cleared of raiders.

Join the mailing list