The first decade of the twentieth century was one of
transition for British foreign policy.
"Splendid isolation" gave way to a new policy of alliances,
which by 1914 had culminated in the Triple Entente of Britain, France, and
Russia. The reasons for this shift were
complex. During much of the nineteenth
century, Britain enjoyed almost unchallenged naval supremacy, which allowed it
to maintain the largest empire the world had ever seen at a minimal cost. In the 1890s, this supremacy was challenged
when other powers, including France and Russia, began building up their fleets,
the start of a world-wide naval race that was to last until World War II. At great cost, Britain strove to maintain
its traditional naval predominance, but British finances were further strained
by the Boer War, 1899-1900, in which the British Army suffered humiliating
disasters trying to subdue rebellious Afrikaners in South Africa. As Britain entered the twentieth century, some
British statesmen saw a need for a new direction in foreign policy to relieve
the burden on Britain's overstretched resources.
The Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902 was the first test of
this new policy. The Triple Entente was
still years in the future, and the allied powers of Russia and France were
regarded by Britain as its most dangerous rivals. The first Anglo-Japanese Alliance will be discussed in more
detail in the next section, but its main aim was to contain Russian expansion
in the Far East, a common interest of Great Britain and Japan. The alliance provided that if either Britain
or Japan became involved in a war with a single power, the other would remain
neutral. In the case of either Britain
or Japan against two powers, the other was required to come to its aid. Furthermore, the alliance applied only to
the Far East; if Britain became involved in a war in Europe, for example, Japan
would not be bound by the alliance.
Thus it was a strictly limited arrangement for Britain, whose interests
spanned the globe.
The Japanese reaped the benefits of the alliance within two
years. When the Russo-Japanese war
broke out in 1904, Japan's alliance with Britain discouraged other powers from
intervening to aid Russia, and in 1905 Japan emerged from the war
victorious. In early 1905, while the
war was still in progress, Britain and Japan began negotiations for a renewal
of the alliance, although it was not due to expire until January 1907.
When this new Anglo-Japanese Alliance was signed on August
12, 1905, it contained some significant changes from the 1902 treaty, and is
more properly regarded as a second alliance than a simple renewal of the old
treaty. The scope of the alliance was
extended to cover the British possessions in India, and the alliance was now
invoked if either Britain or Japan was attacked by a single power. The terms and circumstances of the new
alliance suggest that it marked a significant change in British thinking.
Two aspects of the new treaty and the negotiations leading
up to it seem especially important in this regard. First, the changes in the terms of the treaty itself require
explanation. When the new treaty was
signed, the original treaty was still seventeen months from expiration. In addition, the Japanese victory over the
Russians was a vindication of the British policy in the first treaty -- Russian
expansion in the Far East had been stopped in the most decisive manner, and at
no cost to Britain. Why were the
British interested in such an early renewal, and in such major changes to a
treaty which had proven remarkably successful?
A second question relates to the extension of the treaty to
India. The British worked hard to
persuade the Japanese to accept this extension, and also wanted to include a
secret clause requiring Japan to furnish troops to help defend India from an
invasion. Although no such explicit
requirement was included in the final treaty, British Foreign Secretary Lord
Lansdowne expected that these arrangements would be worked out in military
consultations after the alliance was signed.
However, by February 1906, the British had concluded that "Japan
should not be asked to send troops to India to co-operate with us." How did this scheme to use Japanese troops
to help defend India become so important to the British, and why was it dropped
within six months of the signing of the new treaty?
Before we can begin to discuss any part of the second
alliance, an understanding of the background to the negotiations is
necessary. The first Anglo-Japanese
Treaty of 1902 was the basis for the 1905 renewal, and is an appropriate place
The Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902 resulted from British
attempts to block Russian expansion in the Far East. By the turn of the century, Russia had developed significant
economic and political interests in Manchuria and Korea. During the Boxer Crisis in 1900, the
European Powers (Britain, France, Germany, and Russia), as well as the United
States and Japan, sent forces into China to lift the siege of their legations
in Peking. Russia used the unrest as a
pretext to send large numbers of troops into Manchuria, acting completely
independently of the other Powers.
Britain feared that this was the beginning of the long-awaited partition
of China, which would hurt British interests by closing the "open
door" to the whole of China.
Britain first turned to Germany for help. France and Russia had been allied since
1893, and although their alliance did not extend to the Far East, France
clearly was unlikely to oppose Russian expansion into China. The Germans agreed to a "joint
undertaking" with Britain, signed on 16 October 1900, in which both
countries agreed to oppose the division of China and to keep open trade in
China "as far as they can exercise influence." However, in the following spring, when
Russia pressured China for concessions in Manchuria, German Chancellor Bernhard
von Bülow declared that "there were no German interests of importance in
Manchuria and the fate of that province was a matter of absolute indifference
to Germany." This left Japan as the only significant
power which had both the means and the will to stand up to Russia in the Far
Japan had already proven to be a major player in Far Eastern
affairs when it smashed the Chinese in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, and
was only prevented from annexing the Liaotung peninsula of Manchuria (which
contained Manchuria's main port of Newchwang) by an ultimatum from Russia,
France, and Germany. Russia and Japan
clashed repeatedly in Korea after the war, and the Russian lease of Port Arthur
in 1898, on the the tip of the Liaotung peninsula, did not improve Japanese
disposition towards Russia. During the Manchurian crisis in early 1901,
Japan came close to war with Russia, but backed off when it became clear that it
would have to take on Russia alone. Not
even Britain was willing to go that far over Manchuria. Still, the ground was prepared for formal
negotiations between Britain and Japan to begin in August 1901.
It is important to realize that both the 1902 and the 1905
treaties were negotiated by the same governments on both sides. The British Conservative government remained
in power until December 1905, with Arthur James Balfour as Prime Minister and
Lord Lansdowne as Foreign Secretary throughout both treaty negotiations. On the Japanese side, the same ministry also
held power from 1902 through 1905, with Marquis Katsura as Prime Minister and
Baron Komura as Foreign Minister. Both
the Japanese minister to London, Count Tadasu Hayashi, and the British minister
to Tokyo, Sir Claude MacDonald, also remained at their posts throughout. Thus both governments could use the
diplomatic and personal familiarity gained in the negotiation and the first
years of the alliance for the renewal negotiations in 1905. In addition, ideas which surfaced during the
negotiations for the first treaty would return in 1905.
The first British draft treaty was presented to Japan on
November 6, 1901, and on January 30, 1902, the final version was signed. The main text of the treaty was made public
(see the Appendix), but secret notes were also exchanged when the treaty was
signed, in which both governments agreed to allow each other's navies to share
docking and coaling facilities, as well as to each "maintain, so far as
may be possible, available for concentration in the waters of the Extreme East
a naval force superior to that of any third Power."
The final treaty was reached only after hard bargaining on
both sides. The British, believing that
Japanese interests in Korea outweighed British interests in China, proposed
that the alliance be extended to India to balance out the value of the treaty
to both parties. The Japanese strongly
objected to this additional commitment, and the final version was limited to
the "extreme East." Another
difficult issue was the wording of the naval note. The Japanese wanted a British guarantee that each Power would
continue to maintain a superior fleet in the Far East, being afraid that
Britain would use the alliance to withdraw their fleet from the China station,
leaving Japan without any additional help.
The Admiralty refused to have its freedom to dispose of the fleet
restricted in such a manner, and a compromise was finally reached with the
phrasing "so far as may be possible, [both powers will maintain a naval
force] available for concentration" in the Far East. Britain used this loophole to withdraw
cruisers from its China station at the same time as Russia was increasing its
naval strength in the Far East. When
the Japanese asked for more British ships in April 1903, the First Lord of the
Admiralty claimed that "available for concentration" included ships
in the East Indies, the Pacific, and Australia.
Before we can begin to examine the reasons for the changes
negotiated in 1905, we first need to understand what Britain hoped to
accomplish with the original alliance in 1902.
The historian Ian Nish has proposed several plausible British
goals. Two of them were stated in the
preamble to the treaty, "a desire to maintain the status quo and general peace in the extreme East." First, maintenance of the status quo meant preventing the
partition of China, which could only have hurt British trade with China no
matter how large a slice Britain obtained.
The Anglo-Japanese Alliance provided a very cost-effective means to
accomplish this by enlisting Japanese assistance in the protection of British
interests. British resources were
stretched extremely thin in the financial crunch which followed the Boer War, and
the growth of the French and Russian fleets required concentration of British
naval power in home waters.
The maintenance of peace was a second British
objective. Britain had no interest in a
war with Russia, certainly not in the Far East. As will be seen later, the British government had an almost
pathological fear of Russian aggression across the north-west frontier of
India. Article II prevented Britain
from being dragged into a quarrel between Japan and Russia, while Article III
gave Russia a strong incentive not to bring its ally France into such a war:
British assistance to Japan would far outweigh any possible military aid France
could provide to Russia in the Far East.
Thus, a third British goal was to localize any Far Eastern conflict
which might erupt.
Finally, by allaying the Japanese fear of a combination of
European Powers against them, as had happened in the Sino-Japanese War in 1895,
the alliance forestalled the Japanese from seeking an understanding with
Russia. Keeping Japan and Russia
hostile was a positive benefit to Britain, as Balfour reiterated on the eve of
the Russo-Japanese War:
. . . we have to fear [Russia] chiefly as (a) the ally of
France; (b) the invader of India; (c) the dominating influence in Persia; and
(d) the possible disturber of the European peace. For these purposes she will be not stronger but weaker after
over-running Corea . . . she will have at her Eastern gates at least one
unsleeping and implacable enemy.
The complex diplomacy of the Russo-Japanese War is beyond
the scope of this paper. It is
necessary to briefly discuss the course of the war, however, because it was the
main reason that an early renewal of the alliance was first considered.
The crisis in the Far East began in April 1903 when Russia
violated an agreement with China requiring Russia to withdraw its troops from
Manchuria. Russia refused to continue
the withdrawal until China met additional conditions, which Japan, Britain, and
the United States advised China not to accept. Japan responded to the Russian move by
proposing a compromise formula which had already been rejected once by Russia
in 1901. Japan would give up its
interests in Manchuria and recognize Russia's predominant position there, in
return for Russia doing the same in Korea. Japan's position in Korea was much stronger
in 1903 than in 1901, but after months of fruitless negotiation, it became
clear that Russia was not interested in such a compromise.
By the end of December 1903, the British cabinet was
discussing a Russo-Japanese war as a near certainty, and there was strong
support for Britain joining Japan at the outset. Sir W. G. Nicholson, Director-General of Military Intelligence,
recommended that Britain support Japan from the start even if only Russia was
. . . if we remain neutral until Japan is defeated, and then
find ourselves forced to intervene, the task before us will be far more
difficult than if we support our ally while her naval and military forces are
Lord Roberts, the Commander-in-Chief
of the Army, agreed, but hoped that a firm warning to Russia that Britain would
fight alongside Japan would avert war from occurring. The overall military assessment was that the
Japanese could possibly win victories early in the war, but Russian resources
would overwhelm Japan in the end.
The military raised some troubling points about British
intervention, however. A December 28
War Office report to the Committee of Imperial Defence on the initial phase of
a Russo-Japanese war concluded that "the consequences of the British
Empire throwing its weight into the scale . . . will inevitably be that . . .
we shall find ourselves menaced by a Russian advance towards our Indian
frontier." Three days later Nicholson submitted an
analysis of the requirements of defending India. Even assuming that France stayed neutral while Britain and Japan
fought Russia alone, India would require reinforcement of 100,000 men to
adequately defend against a Russian invasion, which "the force at our
disposal . . . will barely suffice to furnish."
The Prime Minister, Arthur Balfour, meanwhile had strongly
attacked the idea that Britain had no choice but to support Japan in a war
against Russia. In a memorandum dated
December 29, he argued that "the original policy of the Anglo-Japanese
Treaty depended essentially on the theory . . . that [Japan] was a match for
Russia alone, but not a match for Russia and another Power in
combination." The fear that Japan
would be crushed if Britain did not aid it was groundless -- the worst that
could happen would be a Russian naval victory followed by the Russians
overrunning Korea. "I have no
objection to Japan's ambition on the mainland; but surely there is all the
difference in the world between 'crushing' a nation into impotence and interfering
with its schemes of expansion."
Balfour concluded that Britain was "not bound in law, in equity, or
in honour, to join Japan in a war against Russia single-handed."
Balfour's arguments, the worries about India, and misgivings
about Britain's ability to fight an all-out war so soon after the Boer War,
convinced the Cabinet to go no further than the treaty required. At the Committee of Imperial Defence meeting
on January 4, 1904, "it was agreed that His Majesty's Government could
take no action at the present moment in the direction of a threat to Russia or
a guarantee to Japan. . ." Britain continued to follow this policy,
maintaining strict neutrality throughout the Russo-Japanese War.
One result of this debate was to link the issue of Indian
defense to the Anglo-Japanese Alliance.
In any war against Russia, the only likely opponent of the alliance,
Britain would be threatened in India.
The debate on intervention appears to have brought this point under
serious scrutiny for the first time, and undoubtedly contributed to the British
insistence on the extension to India during the renewal negotiations in 1905.
Because of the importance of the Committee of Imperial
Defence, I will digress a moment to explain its function. The C.I.D. was first set up in 1902 by
Balfour as a temporary measure in response to problems revealed by the Boer
War. It was intended to coordinate
military and strategic planning at the Cabinet level, the lack of which had
caused serious problems during the Boer War. The Admiralty was represented by the First
Lord of the Admiralty, the First Sea Lord, and the Director of Naval
Intelligence. The First Lord was a
political Cabinet post, while the First Sea Lord and the D.N.I. were professional
naval officers. Similarly, the War
Office was represented by the Secretary of State for War, the
Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and the Director of Military Intelligence. Balfour chaired the Committee, and because
of its informal nature he could include anyone he chose, but it became customary
for the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary for India, the Colonial Secretary, and
the Chancellor of the Exchequer to attend regularly. In May 1904, Balfour followed the
recommendation of a reform committee and established the new position of
Secretary of the C.I.D., which gave the Committee a more permanent basis.
Although the Japanese had hoped for British assistance, the
lack of encouragement from Britain did not deter them. Japan began the Russo-Japanese War in
February 1904 with a surprise attack on the fortified Russian naval base of
Port Arthur. Most of the Russian fleet
was quickly bottled up there, and in May Japanese forces drove the Russians out
of Korea in the first major land engagement of the war. By the end of May, Port Arthur was besieged
and Japanese forces were advancing deeper into Manchuria. However, several indecisive battles in
August gave the Russians hope for future success, and the Baltic fleet began
its long journey to the east in October, with the mission of relieving the
siege of Port Arthur.
Japanese victories continued in 1905, beginning with the
surrender of Port Arthur on New Year's Day.
Japanese forces defeated the Russians at Mukden, the capital of
Manchuria, on March 10, and on May 28 the Russian Baltic Fleet was annihilated
in the Battle of Tsushima Straits.
Although victorious on land and sea, Japan had reached the end of its
strength, and was ready for peace. The elimination
of their naval power at Tsushima finally convinced the Russians as well that it
was time to begin peace negotiations, which began in August.
The war and the peace negotiations provided the backdrop for
the negotiations for the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Although informal discussions of an early
renewal had already taken place, the issue was first officially discussed on
March 24, 1905 between Lansdowne and Hayashi.
It is important to realize that when negotiations began, the Baltic
Fleet was still en route to the Far East, and the final outcome of the war
unclear. We can now finally turn to a
detailed examination of the negotiations themselves.
The Japanese apparently were the first to suggest that the
alliance might be revised. In a letter
dated 22 December 1904 (but not received until 26 January) the British minister
in Tokyo reported a conversation with
the Japanese Foreign Minister, Baron Komura, who expressed his hope that
"should the war end successfully for Japan, the present Anglo-Japanese
Alliance might be strengthened and extended." MacDonald, the British minister, had proven
extremely valuable in the negotiations for the first alliance, but was not
directly involved in the renewal negotiations, which were conducted mostly in
London between Lansdowne and Hayashi.
The Foreign Office allowed few telegrams to be sent from the Far East,
and since dispatches usually took a month or more to reach London from Tokyo,
MacDonald was often out of step with the British side of the negotiations. Nevertheless, he was well-acquainted with
the leading members of the Japanese government, and provided excellent insights
into the workings of Japanese policy.
In a follow-up to his earlier letter, MacDonald advised Lansdowne:
Personally, I think that the moment when we can be of the
greatest use to them [the Japanese], the moment when they will definitely
decide whether they will go in with us in the Far East of the future or come to
an arrangement with the Russians, will be during the peace negotiations. If we stick to them then, and prevent other
nations interfering . . . I think we shall continue to have a say in matters
Lansdowne was already thinking along the same lines. He instructed Sir H. Mortimer Durand, the
ambassador to the United States, that Japan could "insist on maintaining
her paramount interest in Corea and on the retention of Port Arthur. We should be ready to act with the United
States in opposing attempts by neutral Powers to force Japan to abandon either
of these interests." When Lansdowne discussed the renewal with
Hayashi on March 24 for the first time, he clearly wanted to demonstrate
Britain's continuing support for Japanese interests. "I thought it might be of advantage to them in determining
their policy [towards peace terms] to be made aware of the views of His
Majesty's Government upon this important subject." He assured Hayashi that Britain favored
renewal of the alliance, and asked for clarification on what sort of extension
Japan had in mind. Hayashi could not
answer officially, but told Lansdowne that "some eminent Japanese soldiers
. . . were much in favour of an arrangement under which, in return for adequate
concessions on our side, Japanese troops might be employed in India."
Although this hint tantalized the British, Hayashi had
apparently exceeded his government's intentions. The "adequate concession" he referred to apparently was
British acquiescence in the Japanese takeover of Korea, which would come up
later, but for the present he had gone farther than his government was willing
to go. When he received instructions on
the renewal proposal, he told Lansdowne on April 19 that the Japanese
government would be "glad to renew it, and they considered that a longer
period might be fixed for its duration.
They suggested seven years from the present date." This was the first suggestion that the
alliance might be renewed before its scheduled expiration. Regarding the possible extension to India,
however, "they would prefer that the scope of the Alliance should not be
extended beyond its present limits." It is curious that the Japanese government
would make such a statement, since both suggestions for expanding the scope had
come from the Japanese. Most probably,
they were simply establishing their maximum bargaining position for the start
of serious negotiations.
The Japanese hints about expansion had certainly intrigued
the British. At the C.I.D. meeting on
April 12, the issue of renewal was discussed at length. Opinion favored extending the scope of the
treaty "so as to make it operative in the event of either Contracting
Party being attacked by a third Power."
In return for Japan receiving the protection of the British fleet,
"we should naturally expect her to make a reciprocal promise as regards
her army, which should be made available for the defence of India against
external aggression." On May 4, however, the Cabinet decided not
to pursue the early renewal in the face of Hayashi's official statement denying
Japanese interest in expanding the alliance:
The idea of extending its scope, which the Government are
very willing to consider favourably, was, to our surprise, explicitly
rejected. The question then arose what
steps should next be taken. Mr. B.
[Balfour] is strongly of the opinion that although an extension of the treaty
such as would guarantee Japan against an attack by a single Power, and would
ensure Japanese assistance if India were threatened, might be highly
advantageous to both Powers, it was not our business to sue for it in forma pauperis. It was agreed therefore that at the moment
it should be allowed to sleep. It may
be that on further consideration and with knowledge, the Japanese may alter
Balfour may have been encouraged in his 'wait and see'
attitude by the increasingly desperate Japanese appeals for action. On May 3rd, Hayashi came to see Lansdowne
about the renewal, but the Cabinet had been on Easter vacation and not yet
considered the matter. Hayashi called on the Foreign Secretary
again on the 10th, this time bringing a draft treaty and asking for haste:
"in the opinion of the Japanese Government, the earlier the matter was
arranged the better, as the renewal of the Agreement [Lansdowne quoting
Hayashi] ‘would serve as an indication to other Powers of the course of action’
which Japan was likely to pursue." Again, Lansdowne was unable to comment. The reasons for the sudden Japanese urgency
are unclear. Whether they wanted to
establish the parameters of the negotiations before the impending naval battle,
or because they were afraid that the Balfour government might have to resign,
"the more Japan called for haste, the more Britain became aware that the
alliance could be renewed on the British, and not the attenuated Japanese,
Hayashi's draft was essentially a restatement of the 1902
treaty, with duration extended to seven years (from the date of signing), and
with the reference to the integrity of Korea replaced with a recognition of
"the measures which Japan finds it necessary to take in Corea to safeguard
her special political interest there." The cabinet discussed the treaty again on
May 16, but remained uninterested in a simple renewal:
They are becoming impatient for a renewal: we on the other
hand, though firmly adhering to the policy of renewal, see some difficulty in
renewing at a period so far anterior to the natural expiring of the existing
treaty. If the treaty was to be
extended in scope, this would supply
sufficient reason for immediate action.
If on the other hand the Japanese Government desire an extension in time, without any alteration of its
substance, there seem to be strong reasons against immediate action and few
reasons in its favor.
The cabinet instructed Lansdowne to
make clear to the Japanese, "before
the issue of the coming naval battle is known, that whatever the event we are
wedded to the principle of the alliance," believing it "unworthy of
Your Majesty's advisers to permit the Japanese to suppose that we were mere
'waiters on fortune' -- only prepared to assist the successful."
In a lengthy meeting with Hayashi the next day, Lansdowne
informed him of the cabinet's views, and spelled out the British ideas for
strengthening the treaty. He warned
Hayashi that even if Japan won the war, Russia would wait for a chance to renew
the attack "in such strength as to crush her completely out of existence .
. . The risk would be completely removed by an alliance with Great Britain of
such a kind that Russia would have to reckon with the combined Fleets of that
Power and Japan. With such a prospect
before her, Russia would in all probability abandon the idea of reprisals in
the Far East." However, Russia
would then be more likely to turn its attention elsewhere in Asia, "with
the result that Great Britain would be more seriously threatened than at
present upon the Indian frontier," necessitating the extension of the
alliance to India in compensation.
Hayashi was undaunted by this castle of logic, and merely
replied that "he felt sure that the Japanese Government did not
contemplate an alliance which would impose upon them obligations beyond the Far
East . . . [He] made it clear that India, in his opinion, formed no part of
The question arises, what part of Lansdowne's explanation
was the real reason for British policy, and what was merely a diplomatic
smokescreen? The British clearly wanted
India included in the treaty, and were willing to make concessions to Japan to
obtain this. But an Admiralty
memorandum on the renewal of the alliance followed essentially the same
arguments that Lansdowne made to Hayashi in support of the two changes.
The Admiralty argued that "the chief drawback to the
Alliance in its present form consists in the fact that it forms a direct stimulus to Russian naval
recuperation." Because Russia
could not get help from allies without bringing Britain in, it would have to
build up its own fleet to fight Japan.
Not only would a large Russian navy in the Far East be unwelcome to
Britain, but it would require the Royal Navy to maintain ships there which
would be useless in a European conflict.
However, "if the existing compact were expanded so as to take
effect when any single Power [attacked], all direct incentive to Russia to
rebuild her fleet would be removed."
The downside was that this "final closing of the Far Eastern outlet
to Russia's expansive energy might very probably throw her back on other
projects," namely, expansion against the Indian frontier. Therefore, the treaty should be changed to
solve this problem as well. "In
return for the great weight of naval protection, [Japan] would undertake to
supply (say) 150,000 troops for the defence of our Indian frontier." The defense of India would be thus be
. . . we should find ourselves provided with the services of
a large and thoroughly efficient field army, which could arrive in India, by a safer route, in as many weeks as a numerically equal army from
home would take months . . . The national finances would thereby be relieved in
part from the strain of maintaining a large peace establishment for this
purpose . . .
The defense of India preoccupied the British government in
1905, as it had for several years past.
I will interrupt the narrative here to discuss the problem of defending
"the North-West Frontier," and to examine how the second
Anglo-Japanese Alliance was affected by this ongoing debate.
The discussion about intervention at the end of 1903 brought
the Anglo-Japanese Alliance into an ongoing debate over the strategy and
requirements for defending the north-west frontier of India, which bordered on
Afghanistan. It was only natural to
consider using the Anglo-Japanese Alliance to solve this persistent weak spot
in Imperial security when the renewal came up in 1905.
was far from the only issue involved.
The establishment of the C.I.D. was just one of the reforms generated by
the military fiascoes of the Boer War, and the very role of the army had come
into question. 'Blue water' navalists,
exemplified by Sir John Fisher, believed that the army should take a back seat
to the navy in everything, including financing. Command of the sea would protect the British
Isles and the Empire without the need for a large standing army or extensive
fortifications. Fisher, who became
First Sea Lord in October 1904, believed that the army should best be used as a
"projectile fired by the Navy."
Command of the sea would also give Britain the freedom to "throw
detachments of a small professional army on the flank and rear of the hostile
The defense of India therefore became a key issue in the
argument over the size of the army.
Naval power was clearly unable to defend India from an invasion through
Afghanistan, and the army seized upon this role to prevent its size from being
slashed. Fisher, on the other hand, was
preparing to inaugurate his Dreadnought
program, which (as he clearly recognized) would render all existing battleships
obsolete and require huge new naval expenditures. The Admiralty conclusion about the renewal
of the Japanese alliance, quoted previously, was obviously aimed at
undercutting the army's position: "The national finances would thereby be
relieved in part from the strain of maintaining a large peace
establishment" for defending India.
To muddy the waters even further, the Indian government was
engaged in a power struggle with the Committee of Imperial Defence over this
same issue. Since the C.I.D. began
studying the problem in 1902, the estimated reinforcements requested by India
had continued to rise. Early in 1904, a
C.I.D. report concluded:
It is evident from the correspondence that has already taken
place, that India looks to us for considerably more assistance than we could
prudently give her in the first phase of a war . . .
In March 1904, the C.I.D. assumed
that 30,000 men would be required at the outbreak of war, with 69,000 more sent
within six months. By November, Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of
India, estimated that 144,000 troops would be required within nine months of an
Anglo-Russian war. The Army General
Staff reported with alarm that this would strip Great Britain of all regular
The argument centered on strategy and Russian
capabilities. Curzon and Lord
Kitchener, the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, wanted to pursue a
forward policy of allying with Afghanistan and building railroads up to the
border to carry British troops. The
Secretary of the C.I.D., Sir George Clarke, concluded that this would simply
spur the Russians to match these measures on their side of the border,
resulting in much higher costs with no increase in security. As the months went by, the debate delved
into such arcane questions as how many miles of rail the Russians could build
per week, or how many camels could be collected along the Afghan border.
The prospect of Japanese assistance therefore seemed a
godsend to Balfour. At the April 12,
1905 meeting of the C.I.D., it was noted that "it is of primary importance
to ascertain the views of the Indian Government as to the desirability of the
troops of another Asiatic Power co-operating with our native Indian
troops," but there is no sign that this was done until after the treaty
was signed. Without any further consideration, Japanese
assistance for India was adopted by the British as a key item in the new
treaty, and it became one of the most difficult issues to resolve in the final
stage of negotiations. The major hurdle
was crossed on May 25, however, when MacDonald telegraphed Lansdowne that the
Japanese government had agreed to "accept in principle the revised terms
and scope suggested by your Lordship."
The reasons for the Japanese concession are not clear. MacDonald offered a plausible explanation in
a dispatch to Lansdowne:
I venture to think that one of the main reasons for Japan's
willingness to enter into this new alliance is that given by Baron Komura,
namely that such an alliance will render war practically impossible. Another reason, which would account for the
great alacrity with which they have accepted the new proposals is that should
the great naval action now impending go against them, our moral obligations to
stand by them, in case of ultimate defeat are stronger now than previous to the
making and accepting of these proposals.
The important point for this study
is that the Japanese made large concessions to Britain before the result of the
naval battle was known. Their decisive
victory on May 28 put them in a much stronger bargaining position, but the die
was already cast. The next two months
were spent working out the details of the treaty, and while some hard
bargaining lay ahead, the basic outline of the alliance was now established.
Although the destruction of the Russian fleet at Tsushima
altered the world balance of naval power, it had relatively little impact upon
the treaty negotiations. In a
postscript to the memorandum on renewal, the Admiralty expressed the following
While they fully recognise the vast consequences which must
ultimately follow upon Admiral Togo's latest and most splendid achievement, the
Admiralty do not see in the great events of the last few days anything to
modify in the smallest degree the views they have already expressed in the
. . The best that can be said of Japan's recent successes is that they have
completely foiled Russia's stroke, and prevented her from putting her avowed
purpose into practice. The threat
remains, and with it remains the necessity for an alliance, based upon the
necessities of a situation too firmly established to be suddenly transformed by
a single victory, however crushing.
On the 26th of May, Hayashi delivered the Japanese draft
treaty to Lansdowne, which was circulated to the Cabinet for
consideration. Several points were
uncontroversial, and remained essentially unchanged in the final version. The treaty required Britain and Japan to
assist if the other was attacked by a single Power, and was to run for ten
years. The articles that the British
found problematic ran as follows:
The obligation of either Contracting Party to come to the
assistance of the other as above described is territorially limited to regions
of Eastern Asia and India, and no obligation in that respect shall arise unless
and until hostilities or warlike operations have taken place in the said
The right of Japan to take such measures as she may deem
right and necessary in order to safeguard her special political, military, and
economical interests in Corea, is fully recognized by Great Britain.
The draft also contained three
Each of the Contracting Parties will endeavour to maintain
at all times in the Far East a naval force superior in strength to that of any
third Power having the largest naval force in the Far East.
[The] nature and degree of armed assistance, and the means
by which such assistance is to be made available, will be arranged by the naval
and military authorities of the Contracting Parties.
In case Japan finds it necessary to establish [a]
protectorate over Corea in order to check [the] aggressive action of any third
Power, and to prevent complications in connection with [the] foreign relations
of Corea, Great Britain engages to support the action of Japan.
For the remaining period, the negotiations focused on
several key problem areas. Now that
their final victory in the war was assured, the Japanese began to press for an
article recognizing their right to establish a protectorate in Korea. The Japanese draft of June 23 revised
Article III to reflect this:
Japan possessing special paramount political, military and
economic interests in Corea, Great Britain recognizes the right of Japan to
take such measures of guidance, control and protection in Corea as she may deem
proper and necessary to safeguard and advance those interests, provided always
that such measures do not infringe the principle of equal opportunities for the
commerce and industry of all nations.
The problem was not the protectorate
itself. As Balfour told the King,
"We had no desire to prevent her obtaining a protectorate over that
country:-- which indeed she was sure to obtain in any case." What worried the Cabinet was the prospect
that Japan might infringe the existing treaty rights of other Powers in Korea,
and Britain might end up at war with the United States, for instance. In the end, the British accepted the
Japanese wording in exchange for concessions regarding India.
Two other areas of negotiation were the geographic scope and
the military obligations to be specified in the treaty. Although neither was unduly difficult to
resolve, both related directly to Indian defense, and so merit closer
One objection to the Japanese draft of May 26 was the
limitation of Article III to India.
Balfour wanted border regions such as Afghanistan and Seistan included
as a balance to the inclusion of Korea for Japan:
Both we and the Japanese have interests outside the
frontiers of our respective dominions which it is as important to safeguard as
the frontiers themselves. An attack on
Corea would rightly be regarded by the Japanese, and an attack on Afghanistan
would rightly be regarded by us, as in no essential sense to be distinguished
from an attack on Japan and on India, respectively.
The Japanese evidently considered
Korea and India to have equivalent status as "interests outside the
frontiers of our respective dominions," which made their exclusion of
Afghanistan and Persia perfectly reasonable; the British would not have considered
extending the treaty to cover Manchuria, the region adjacent to the Korean
frontier. To the British, in contrast,
India was 'home territory' just as much as the British Isles, which made
Afghanistan and Persia the equivalent of Korea. The negotiations during the next two months largely involved
bridging this difference in interpretation.
After several Cabinet sessions spent wrangling over the
treaty, a new British draft was given to the Japanese for consideration on June
10. Balfour summarized the difficulties
of this process in his report to the King:
The guarantee of assistance by Japan to Britain, and by
Britain to Japan, had to cover not merely the case in which the territories of
the two Powers were attacked, but also the case in which adjacent territories
were threatened. Japan (for example)
must be able to call upon us to aid her if Corea were invaded: while we, in
like manner, should claim her assistance if the same danger threatened
The British were not entirely
unsympathetic to Japanese worries about being dragged into some border squabble
on the Indian frontier. H.O.
Arnold-Forster, the Secretary of War, hoped that "if the inclusion of
Persia and Seistan be found to present any obstacles, the point will be waived
at once." The Admiralty had suggested back in April
that Persia be excluded since "it would not be just to involve them in
difficulties which we, always liable to unreasoning panic in regard to our
Indian frontier, might create for ourselves."
The British added an Indian counterpart to Article IV (the
Korean article) of the Japanese draft:
Japan recognizes the special interests of Great Britain in
the regions in proximity to the Indian frontier and her right to take such
measures as she may deem proper and necessary in order to safeguard those
The Japanese tried to delete this
article altogether, but Lansdowne insisted on retaining it. The debate then shifted to defining the
geographic scope. The British clause
seemed to the Japanese to be:
tantamount to an indefinite extension of the geographical
scope. . . The scope of "India and eastern Asia" is to them quite
clear and definite. . . . The Ministers think that practically the "region in proximity to the Indian
frontier" is included in the alliance because trouble could hardly arise
in that region without India becoming involved when the alliance would at once
Finally, as a quid pro quo for British acceptance of the Korean clause, the
Japanese gave in. Hayashi informed
Lansdowne on July 14 that the Japanese government would consider
"essentially defensive and non-provocative" any British actions taken
in the frontier regions, "provided these measures are found necessary for
safeguarding their territorial right in India itself." Within four days of the Japanese concession,
the final wording of the article was agreed upon, which was essentially the
same as the British proposal of July 1 (see below for final version of treaty).
Although no secret military clauses were included in the
final treaty, the negotiations over these articles provide important insights
into British thinking. Two of the
secret clauses in the Japanese draft of May 26 were uncontroversial. Note B eventually ended up in the main text
as Article VII, and we have already seen that Note C was incorporated into
Article III of the final treaty.
The elimination of the Russian fleet required
reconsideration of the naval provision in Note A. The Admiralty believed that "the Anglo-Japanese Fleet in the
Far East is unnecessarily and preposterously strong," and that five
battleships should be withdrawn to European waters. The United States was now the third strongest naval power in the
Far East, and since "it is now recognised as a cardinal feature of British
foreign policy that war between Great Britain and the United States is not a
contingency sufficiently probable to need special steps to meet it," there
was no reason to match the American China squadron. The Japanese had no objection to the British
revision of the Note to read "superior in strength to any European Power [italics added]."
The British added a secret note of their own in the June 10
It is agreed that Japan will, in event of war, provide and
maintain a force which shall be equal to the force of British troops from time
to time in India up to a limit of
Lansdowne asked the Japanese
government to suggest a limitation on the number of troops they would be
willing to supply, but they were strongly opposed to the provision and deleted
it from their next draft.
Arnold-Forster had suggested the stipulation that
"Japanese military assistance to be an
addition to and not a substitute for
our own army in India, " citing the "danger that the people of India
will cease to regard us as the masters of India. If ever we cease to hold India by the strong hand, and India
knows it, the day will not be far distant when we shall lose India
altogether." Balfour also supported this requirement:
There is . . . a real danger that, if a Radical Government
came into power, they would reduce our Army below the limits of safety; and
this danger will be greatly augmented if they think they can rely on an
unlimited supply of men from Japan.
. . . It is not consistent either
with the security or the dignity of the Empire that the defence of any part of
it should depend mainly on a Foreign Power, however friendly and however
powerful. We have therefore endeavoured
to frame the treaty . . . in such a manner as to make Japanese assistance in
the defence of India bear a fixed relationship to the efforts we make to send
adequate forces to the front.
Both sides continued to try to work out a satisfactory
arrangement in various drafts, but once doubts of this nature were raised, it
was not long before the entire idea of Japanese assistance for India began to
be questioned. The War Office was the
first to cool to the idea, issuing a scathing report on June 16. In the event of a war with Russia,
(a) We cannot depend upon Japan sending troops to assist us
across the North-West Frontier of India . . .
(b) If, eventually, she were able and
willing to send them we might lose rather than gain by their help.
The report concluded that it would
be unwise in any case to specify within the treaty "either the character
of the assistance to be afforded or the territorial limits within which such
assistance should be given."
Arrangements made for combined action must frequently be
revised, and therefore they can, it is thought, best be dealt with, as required
from time to time, by Naval and Military authorities of the contracting
Lansdowne was still attached to the idea of Japanese
assistance for Indian defense, and continued to press the Japanese to accept
it. He told Hayashi on July 1 that
"we attached considerable importance to making it perfectly clear that the
military arrangements of Japan would henceforth provide for an expeditionary
force available for service in India." Japan continued to oppose any explicitly
specified military requirements, echoing the arguments of the War Office:
"In the opinion of the Japanese Government, the nature of the assistance given
by one party to the other must depend on 'the character of the conflict,' which
could not be foreseen."
In the end, this argument was accepted. All military provisions were eliminated from
the treaty except for Article VII, which called for the "Naval and
Military authorities of the Contracting Powers" to "consult one
another fully and freely upon all questions of mutual interest." While the British gave up the stated promise
of Japanese assistance for India, the 'naval superiority' clause was also
dropped, which gave them complete freedom to redeploy the fleet.
By August 3, Balfour could report to the King that "the
negotiations may now be considered near a successful issue." Although the treaty was signed on August 12,
it was not immediately published. The
peace talks between Japan and Russia were in progress, and the Cabinet felt
that it would be prudent to wait until they were concluded. The final version of the treaty ran as
The Governments of Great Britain and Japan, being desirous
of replacing the Agreement concluded between them on the 30th January, 1902, by
fresh stipulations, have agreed upon the following Articles, which have for
The consolidation and maintenance of the general peace in the regions of
Eastern Asia and of India;
The preservation of the common interests of all Powers in China by
insuring the independence and integrity of the Chinese Empire and the principle
of equal opportunities for the commerce and industry of all nations in China;
The maintenance of the territorial rights of the High Contracting
Parties in the regions of Eastern Asia and of India, and the defence of their
special interests in the said regions:--
It is agreed that whenever, in the opinion of either Great
Britain or Japan, any of the rights and interests referred to in the preamble
of this Agreement are in jeopardy, the two Governments will communicate with
one another fully and frankly, and will consider in common the measures which
should be taken to safeguard those menaced rights or interests.
If by reason of unprovoked attack or aggressive action,
wherever arising, on the part of any other Power or Powers either Contracting
Party should be involved in war in defence of its territorial right or special
interests mentioned in the preamble of this Agreement, the other Contracting
Party will at once come to the assistance of its ally, and will conduct the war
in common, and make peace in mutual agreement with it.
Japan possessing paramount political, military, and economic
interests in Corea, Great Britain recognizes the right of Japan to take such
measures of guidance, control, and protection in Corea as she may deem proper
and necessary to safeguard and advance those interests, provided always that
such measures are not contrary to the principle of equal opportunities for the
commerce and industry of all nations.
Great Britain having a special interest in all that concerns
the security of the Indian frontier, Japan recognizes her right to take such
measures in the proximity of that frontier as she may find necessary for
safeguarding her Indian possessions.
The High Contracting Parties agree that neither of them
will, without consulting the other, enter into separate arrangements with
another Power to the prejudice of the objects described in the preamble of this
As regards the present war between Japan and Russia, Great
Britain will continue to maintain strict neutrality unless some other Power or
Powers should join in hostilities against Japan, in which case Great Britain
will come to the assistance of Japan, and will conduct the war in common, and
make peace in mutual agreement with Japan.
The conditions under which armed assistance shall be
afforded by either Power to the other in the circumstances mentioned in the
present Agreement, and the means by which such assistance is to be made
available, will be arranged by the Naval and Military authorities of the
Contracting Parties, who will from time to time consult one another fully and
freely upon all questions of mutual interest.
The present Agreement shall, subject to the provisions of
Article VI, come into effect immediately after the date of its signature, and
remain in force for ten years from that date.
Although not explicitly included in the final treaty, the
idea of Japanese help in defending India was not quite dead. Japan had never objected in principle to
sending troops to India, only to a numerical commitment within the treaty. The subject could have been discussed in the
military talks after the treaty was signed, but before this could happen, the
British themselves decided not to ask for Japanese help. In December 1905, the Conservative Balfour
government finally fell, and was replaced by a Liberal cabinet headed by Sir
Henry Campbell-Bannerman. When the
C.I.D. took up Indian defense again in February 1906, they decided that
"Japan should not be asked to send troops to India to co-operate with us
in a campaign on the north-west frontier."
What is the explanation for what Nish calls "this
apparent volte-face?" The change in government is the most obvious
answer, but the decision was already essentially taken before the Liberals took
power. Some of the reasons had already
been raised during the negotiations, and some had crystallized out of the
continuing study of Indian defence by the C.I.D. A War Office report on November 4 summarized the objections:
It is recommended that we, similarly, should not ask Japan
to send troops to India, first, because the number of men that can be employed
across the north-west frontier is limited by the means of transport and supply;
and secondly, because to ask for assistance to ward off attack by a single
adversary would . . . be highly detrimental, if not absolutely fatal, to our
prestige throughout the Asiatic continent.
The second point had been raised back in June by
Arnold-Forster, as discussed previously.
The first point came from a dawning realization of the difficulties of
moving an army up to the Indian frontier.
One beneficial result of the feuding between the Indian Army and the
C.I.D. was that a realistic assessment was finally made of the possibility of a
Russian invasion through Afghanistan, and it was found to be remote. Within a year, the C.I.D. had officially
laid the specter of invasion to rest:
We may therefore, at least, for some years to come, base our
policy on the assumption that there is no Russian menace, and we may consider
our interests in Afghanistan apart from schemes of meeting vast Russian armies
in that inhospitable country.
The British would have enough
difficulty moving their own army into Afghanistan, without the added burden of
moving and supplying a huge Japanese army.
Lastly, the C.I.D. finally got around to asking the Indian
Government's opinion on Japanese assistance.
At their February 1 meeting, the C.I.D. discovered that India had never
been consulted on the matter. In answer
to their query, the Viceroy telegraphed back, "We do not at present
consider it would be advisable to employ Japanese troops in or through
India." This was the final nail in the coffin for
Japanese assistance to India.
It is important to remember that the fear of Russian
aggression was dispelled by a rational analysis of their capabilities, not
because of any perceived change in their intentions. Relations with Russia were worse, if anything, in the months
immediately following the publication of the alliance in September (the
Russians were given a copy on September 7).
On September 2, the Russian Foreign Minister expressed to the British
ambassador his hope "that peace will aid powerfully our efforts tending to
a loyal and sincere rapprochement." Relations between Britain and France were
excellent, having survived the test of the Moroccan crisis during the summer,
and better relations with France's ally seemed possible as well. Indeed, by 1907 the Anglo-Russian entente
was well-established. But in October
1905, the Russian Foreign Minister stated that "the Russian Government
resented the introduction of a third Power like Japan in questions which did
not concern her," and that consequently negotiations with Britain were
impossible for the time being.
We have now seen that the rejection of the idea of Japanese
troops defending the north-west frontier was due primarily to the rational
assessment of the threat to India. The
scheme was born as a means to defend India against an invading Russian horde,
and when that fear was shown to be exaggerated, the need for Japanese troops in
India was removed.
The initial suggestion for an early, revised renewal of the
Anglo-Japanese alliance came from Japan, probably in order to facilitate the
establishment of a protectorate over Korea.
The British immediately embraced renewal, especially the idea of
extending the geographic scope to include India, as a solution to the seemingly
endless debate over Indian defense.
The British offered Japan full protection from attack for
several reasons. First, such a
provision would discourage Russia from rebuilding its Far Eastern fleet,
thereby increasing the security of Britain's interests in the East. Second, it was a good quid pro quo for Japanese protection of India. The overwhelming nature of Japan's victory
at Tsushima only served to confirm to Britain the value of Japan as an
ally. The success of the original,
limited alliance led the British to attempt a stronger and more extensive
alliance, the Second Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1905.
The final version was signed on January 30, 1902. It ran as follows:
The Governments of Great Britain and Japan, actuated solely
by a desire to maintain the status quo
and general peace in the extreme East, being moreover specially interested in
maintaining the independence and territorial integrity of the Empire of China
and the Empire of Corea, and in securing equal opportunities in those countries
for the commerce and industry of all nations, hereby agree as follows:--
The High Contracting Parties, having mutually recognised the
independence of China and Corea, declare themselves to be entirely uninfluenced
by any aggressive tendencies in either country. Having in view, however, their special interests, of which those
of Great Britain relate principally to China, while Japan, in addition to those
interests which she possesses in China, is interested in a peculiar degree
politically as well as commercially and industrially in Corea, the High
Contracting Parties recognise that it will be admissible for either of them to
take such measures as may be indispensable in order to safeguard those
interests if threatened either by the aggressive action of any other Power, or
by disturbances arising in China or Corea, and necessitating the intervention
of either of the High Contracting Parties for the protection of the lives or
property of its subjects.
If either Great Britain or Japan, in defence of their
respective interests as above described, should become involved in war with
another Power, the other High Contracting Party will maintain a strict
neutrality, and use its efforts to prevent other Powers from joining in
hostilities against its Ally.
If in the above event any other Power or Powers should join
in hostilities against the Ally, the other High Contracting Party will come to
its assistance and will conduct the war in common, and make peace in mutual
agreement with it.
The High Contracting Parties agree that neither of them
will, without consulting the other, enter into separate arrangements with
another Power to the prejudice of the interests above described.
Whenever, in the opinion of either Great Britain or Japan,
the above-mentioned interests are in jeopardy, the two Governments will
communicate with one another fully and frankly.
The present Agreement shall come into effect immediately
after the date of its signature, and remain in force five years from that date.
neither of the High Contracting Parties should have notified twelve months
before the expiration of the said five years the intention of terminating it,
it shall remain binding until the expiration of one year from the day on which
either of the High Contracting Parties shall have denounced it. But if, when the date fixed for its
expiration arrives, either Ally is actually engaged in war, the alliance shall,
ipso facto, continue until peace is
British documents on foreign affairs --
reports and papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print, Part I,
Series E: Asia, Vol. 8. Frederick, Md.:
University Publications of America, 1989.
G.P. and Temperley, H. W. V., eds. British documents on the origins of the war,
1898-1914, vols. 2 - 4. London: H.M. Stationery Office, 1927-29.
Great Britain, Cabinet office, papers,
1880-1914, microfilm. London:
Public Records Office, 1965.
Great Britain, Cabinet office,
photographic copies of Cabinet letters in the Royal Archives (Cab. 41). London: Public Records Office, 1965.
Great Britain, Committee of Imperial Defence
papers, 1888-1914, microfilm.
London: Public Records Office, 1965.
P. K., ed. The papers of Admiral Sir John Fisher, vol. II. London: Navy Records Society, 1964.
Lansdowne papers, 1898-1926,
microfilm. Public Records of Great
Britain: Secretaries of State for Foreign Affairs, FO 800, Foreign Office,
John. The Plans of War: The General Staff and British Military Strategy c.
1900-1916. London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1974.
Franklyn A. Defence by Committee: The British Committee of Imperial Defence,
1885-1959. London: Oxford
University Press, 1960.
Arthur J. The Anatomy of British Sea Power: A History of British Naval Policy in
the Pre-Dreadnought Era, 1880-1905.
New York: Octagon Books, 1976.
George. The End of Isolation: British Foreign Policy, 1900-1907. New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd., 1963.
Ian. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance: The Diplomacy of Two Island Empires,
1894-1907. Westport, Connecticut:
Greenwood Press, 1976.
John A. The Diplomacy of the Russo-Japanese War. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964.
Samuel R., Jr. The Politics of Grand Strategy: Britain and France Prepare for War,
Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1969.