Anglo-Japanese Alliance

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Anglo-Japanese Alliance Treaty

The Anglo-Japanese Alliance ( Japanese 日 英 同盟 , Nichi-Ei Dōmei , literally: "Japanese-English Alliance") was an alliance concluded on January 30, 1902 between the United Kingdom and the Japanese Empire . The treaty signed by the British Foreign Minister Lord Lansdowne and the Japanese Ambassador in London, Hayashi Tadasu , was renewed and expanded in each case in 1905 and 1911 and represented an important milestone in the departure of the British from their foreign policy called splendid isolation the alliance in decline due to various political differences of opinion and was replaced by a four-power pact on US instigation in 1922 and finally officially dissolved in 1923.

Motivations and reservations

The possibility of an alliance between Great Britain and the Empire of Japan was first considered in 1895 when the British refused to join the anti-Japan intervention of Shimonoseki , consisting of France , Germany and Russia . Anglo-Japanese relations were further enhanced by the close cooperation between the two countries in modernizing Japan and suppressing the Boxer Rebellion . Important newspapers in both countries repeatedly called for an alliance agreement to be concluded, sometimes encouraged by individual politicians. The final trigger for negotiations, however, was Russia's aggressive expansion in the Far East, which was viewed with concern in London and Tokyo. This is how negotiations began after Russian troops occupied Manchuria during the Boxer Rebellion .

Nevertheless, there were also reservations about an alliance. The British were unwilling to give up their isolationist foreign policy of splendid isolation completely and to irritate Russia too much. In Japan, on the other hand, a strong faction around Prime Minister Itō Hirobumi advocated finding a negotiated compromise with Russia on the respective interests in China. This group feared that Russia might feel tied up by the alliance and adopt a more aggressive tone towards Japan. They argued that an intra-Asian friendship treaty with Russia would also appease the United States, which were concerned about Japan's growing political influence beyond Asia. In addition, the British were unwilling to increase Japanese influence in Korea, while Japan was unwilling to support the British position in British India .

The concrete negotiations finally began after Katsura Taro took office in London in July 1901, but continued until November because of the dispute over Korea and India, when Ito, who had traveled to Europe for negotiations, requested an interruption of the negotiations in order to try again to reach an agreement with Russia. When these remained fruitless and the British threatened to break off the negotiations due to the two-pronged way of negotiation by the Japanese, Ambassador Hayashi hastily resumed them in early 1902.

Contents of the 1902 Treaty

The original contract contained the following six articles:

Article 1

The High Contracting parties, having mutually recognized the independence of China and Korea, declare themselves to be entirely uninfluenced by aggressive tendencies in either country, having in view, however, their special interests, of which those of Great Britain relate principally to China, whilst Japan, in addition to the interests which she possesses in China, is interested in a peculiar degree, politically as well as commercially and industrially in Korea, the High Contracting parties recognize 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 Korea, and necessitating the intervention of either of the High Contracting parties for the protection of the lives and properties of its subjects.

article 1

The High Contracting Parties, which have jointly recognized the independence of China and Korea, declare that they are completely unaffected by aggressive tendencies within their countries, but still recognize their special interests, which for Great Britain mainly relate to China, while Japan, in addition to is interested in its interests in China, in particular in Korea in both a political and commercial and industrial sense, the High Contracting Parties recognize that it is permissible for both of them to take such measures as are indispensable to their interests in the event of an aggressive one or to defend any other threat from another power or from domestic unrest within China or Korea, and therefore require the intervention of one of the High Contracting Parties to protect the lives and possessions of their interests.

Article 2

Declaration of neutrality if either signatory becomes involved in war through Article 1.

Article 2

Declaration of the neutrality of the other contracting parties if a contracting party is involved in a war under Article 1.

Article 3

Promise of support if either signatory becomes involved in war with more than one power.

Article 3

Promise of assistance from the other party if either party is involved in a war with more than one power.

Article 4

Signatories promise not to enter into separate agreements with other powers to the prejudice of this alliance.

Article 4

The signatories promise not to enter into separate negotiations with other powers that are to the detriment of this alliance.

Article 5

The signatories promise to communicate frankly and fully with each other when any of the interests affected by this treaty are in jeopardy.

Article 5

The signatories promise to communicate openly and fully with one another if the interests set out in this contract are at risk.

Article 6

Treaty to remain in force for five years and then at one years' notice, unless notice was given at the end of the fourth year.

Article 6

The contract remains in force for five years and must then be terminated twelve months in advance, unless an objection is raised by the end of the fourth year.

Articles 2 and 3 stipulated that Great Britain would not have to intervene on the Japanese side in a possible war against Russia if it were triggered by the Korean question. In return, Japan had no liability whatsoever if the British were threatened in India or waged a war in China.

The core of the treaty was Article 3: only in the event of war one of the alliance partners with more than one power required military assistance. Because of this arrangement, Japan could be sure that not a single power could support Russia without having to wage war not only with Japan but also with England. England, on the other hand, was not forced to intervene when Japan and Russia fought alone.

Although the contract was written as clearly as possible and translated into both languages, the two sides understood it slightly differently. The British saw it as a slight warning to Russia, while Japan was encouraged to act more aggressively against it. Some representatives of both nations therefore saw the treaty only as a safeguard for imperialist ambitions.

Renewal in 1905 and 1911

The alliance contract was renewed and expanded twice. The first expansion in 1905 was dominated by the Russo-Japanese War and aimed at preventing any Russian thoughts of revenge. Negotiations began in March 1905, before the decisive naval battle at Tsushima , and were concluded in August, before the Treaty of Portsmouth . The main changes were:

  • The scope was extended from East Asia to include the British possessions in South Asia ( British India ).
  • In Article III, the alliance case was no longer restricted to attacks by more than one state. The attack of a single enemy led to the contract partner entering the war.
  • Korea's independence was no longer mentioned, and instead Japan's "primary political, military and economic interests" in that country were recognized. This made it possible for Japan to establish a protectorate over Korea as early as November 1905 with the Japan-Korea Protectorate Treaty and thus to destroy Korea's sovereignty.
  • The term of the new contract was ten years.

The precise provisions on the deployment of Japanese troops in India, which were temporarily discussed, were not included in the final version of the treaty.

The often invoked danger of a Russian attack on India was largely eliminated by the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. At around the same time, Japan also signed treaties with the other two powers of the Triple Entente , which brought about a balance of interests with them.

The alliance was renewed prematurely in 1911 after the American proposal for an arbitration treaty with Great Britain had triggered fears in Japan that Great Britain would not continue the alliance with Japan under these conditions. Japan therefore agreed to the inclusion of a clause according to which the existence of such an arbitration agreement released the contracting party from its obligations. This enabled Japan to prevent its threatened isolation. In addition, it signed a new customs treaty with Great Britain that restored its customs autonomy. Great Britain and the Empire, which had been consulted about the extension for the first time, linked the extension with the interest of preventing an independent Japanese power politics in the Pacific, possibly combined with a German-Japanese rapprochement. In fact, although not contractually obliged to do so, Japan entered the war against Germany on the side of Great Britain in 1914. The treaty had already made it possible for the British to strengthen their battle fleet in their home waters by withdrawing units from East Asia.


The alliance was first made public on February 12, 1902. In reaction to this, Russia, feeling threatened, tried to form an alliance with France and Germany, but this was rejected by the German side. Therefore, on March 16, only one reciprocal treaty was signed between Russia and France. Due to the content of the Anglo-Japanese treaty, however, France was unable to come to the aid of Russia directly in the event of war, as the theater of war would be in Central and East Asia. This became evident as early as 1904 in the Russo-Japanese War , in which France would only have had the option of declaring war on Great Britain in Europe, which would not have improved the Russian situation in East Asia.

China and the United States strictly opposed the Anglo-Japanese alliance.

The alliance gave Japan legal grounds to enter World War I on the Allied side and occupy the German possession of Tsingtao in China in 1914. Japanese officers on British battleships also took part in the 1916 Skagerrak Battle . From 1917 Japanese warships were moved to the Mediterranean , where they were supposed to protect Allied ships from enemy submarine attacks. The treaty occupation of the German colonial possessions in the South Seas meant a great boost for Japan's imperialist ambitions.

In addition, the alliance initiated a cultural exchange between the two countries. Japanese were sent to the UK to study while the now more publicized Japanese culture influenced many British artists such as Aubrey Beardsley .

Fall of the Alliance

On July 8, 1920, both sides declared that the treaty could not be fully in accordance with the letter on the agreement (of the League of Nations), which both sides intended to respect .

Another sign of the decline of the alliance was the 1921 Reich Conference in London, at which the leaders of the Commonwealth of Nations decided on a jointly coordinated foreign policy. One of the main themes of the conference was a possible further extension of the alliance between Great Britain and Japan. Initially, only Canadian Prime Minister Arthur Meighen explicitly opposed an extension of the contract. The Australians, on the other hand, feared the Japanese as direct competition in the region and that they could lose their importance for the Commonwealth. They also argued that the US would not play a special role in the Pacific with its isolationist foreign policy and that the Commonwealth would have to build up its own strong forces in the area, since the Japanese could not feel bound to the alliance due to the lack of threats. Meighen then argued that the Commonwealth should withdraw immediately from the alliance because of the possibility of being drawn into a Japanese-American conflict. The Americans feared at the time that the markets in the Pacific could orient themselves towards Japan after a renewal of the alliance, the strength of which, particularly in China, would undoubtedly increase. These fears have been spread in both the US and Canadian media and linked to reports of alleged secret clauses. Due to these developments, the conference decided not to seek an extension of the alliance. The conference then informed the League of Nations that they were willing to leave the Alliance, whereupon they warned that the agreed twelve-month deadline for the leaving nation must be observed.

The conference had decided to sacrifice the alliance in favor of good relations with the United States, but feared that Japan might subsequently ally with Germany or Russia. As a result, several delegates to the conference persuaded the United States to invite several nations to discuss the distribution of power in East Asia and the Pacific. Japan took part in the Washington Naval Conference, but was now deeply suspicious of the British and their intentions. They took part primarily to prevent a possible war with the United States. One result of the conference was the conclusion of a four-power treaty between the United States, Great Britain, Japan and France, which included mutual respect for the Pacific possessions of the contracting parties. Article IV of the treaty stipulated that the Anglo-Japanese treaty of 1911 should expire upon ratification by all parties. The Anglo-Japanese alliance thus ended on August 17, 1923.

The Japanese people's increased distrust of Great Britain as a result of the termination of the treaty is cited by many researchers as one of the reasons that led to Japan starting the Pacific War .


  • WG Beasley: The Modern History of Japan. , Frederick A. Praeger , Boston, ISBN 0-03-037931-8 .
  • JB Brebner: Canada, The Anglo-Japanese Alliance and the Washington Conference , Political Science Quarterly 50, no.1 (1935).
  • Gordon Daniels, Janet Hunter, Ian Nish and David Steeds: Studies in the Anglo-Japanese Alliance (1902-1923) , London School of Economics , 2003, (LSE), Suntory and Toyota International Centers for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD) Paper No. IS / 2003/443: See full paper (pdf; 730 kB) - May 2008
  • Malcom D. Kennedy: The Estrangement of Great Britain and Japan , University of California Press, Los Angeles, 1969.
  • Ayako Lister-Hotta, Ian Nish and David Steeds: Anglo-Japanese Alliance , 2003, LSE STICERD Paper No. IS / 2002/432: See full paper (pdf; 928 kB) - May 2008
  • Ian H. Nish: The Anglo-Japanese alliance: the diplomacy of two island empires, 1894-1907. (= University of London Historical Studies, XVIII) 2nd edition, Athlone Press, London 1985. ISBN 978-0-485-13139-0 .
  • Ders .: Alliance in decline: a study in Anglo-Japanese relations, 1908–23. (= University of London Historical Studies, XXXIII) Athlone Press, London 1972. ISBN 978-0-485-13133-8 .
  • Charles N. Spinks: The Termination of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance , Pacific Historical Review 6, No. 4 (1937): 321-340.
  • JC Vinson: The Imperial Conference of 1921 and the Anglo-Japanese alliance , Pacific Historical Review 31, No. 3 (1962): 257-266.


  1. Vladimir Petrovich Potjomkin : History of Diplomacy , Volume Two (Die Diplomatie der Neuzeit 1872-1919), Page 287 and Volume Three, Part 1 (Diplomacy in the Period of Preparation for the Second World War 1919-1939), Pages 156f and 167f. SWA-Verlag Berlin 1948.
  2. Michael Duffy: Primary Documents - Anglo-Japanese Alliance, January 30, 1902. In: August 22, 2009, accessed December 6, 2010 .
  3. Wladimir Petrovich Potjomkin : History of Diplomacy , Volume Two (Die Diplomatie der Neuzeit 1872-1919), pages 190ff (The Anglo-Japanese Treaty). SWA-Verlag Berlin 1948
  4. ^ Sydney Morning Herald, February 13, 1902.
  5. ^ 1916 newspaper casualty lists, Toronto Public Library.
  6. ^ Text of the statement in League of Nations Treaty Series , vol. 1, p. 24.
  7. ^ Vinson, JC "The Imperial Conference of 1921 and the Anglo-Japanese alliance." Pacific Historical Review 31, no.3 (1962): 258
  8. ^ Vinson, JC "The Imperial Conference of 1921 and the Anglo-Japanese alliance," 258.
  9. ^ Brebner, JB "Canada, The Anglo-Japanese Alliance and the Washington Conference." Political Science Quarterly 50, no.1 (1935): 52
  10. ^ Vinson, JC "The Imperial Conference of 1921 and the Anglo-Japanese alliance." Pacific Historical Review 31, no.3 (1962): 257
  11. ^ Spinks, Charles N. "The Termination of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance." Pacific Historical Review 6, no.4 (1937): 324
  12. Ibid, 326.
  13. ^ Nish, Ian H. Alliance in Decline: A Study in Anglo-Japanese Relations 1908-23. (London: The Athlone Press, 1972), 334
  14. Ibid, 337.
  15. Kennedy, Malcolm D. The Estrangement of Great Britain and Japan. (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969), 54
  16. ^ A b Nish, Ian H. Alliance in Decline, 381.
  17. ^ Nish, Ian H. Alliance in Decline, 354.
  18. Kennedy, Malcolm D. The Estrangement of Great Britain and Japan. (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969), 56

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