Anglo-Japanese Alliance

"Anglo-Japanese Treaty" redirects here. For other uses, see Anglo-Japanese (disambiguation).

The first Anglo-Japanese Alliance (日英同盟 Nichi-Ei Dōmei) was signed in London at what is now the Lansdowne Club,[1] on 30 January 1902, by Lord Lansdowne (British foreign secretary) and Hayashi Tadasu (Japanese minister in London). A diplomatic milestone that saw an end to Britain's splendid isolation, the alliance was renewed and expanded in scope twice, in 1905 and 1911, before its demise in 1921. It was officially terminated in 1923.

Motivations and reservations

Tadasu Hayashi, Japanese signatory of the alliance

The possibility of an alliance between United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Empire of Japan had been canvassed since 1895, when Britain refused to join the Triple Intervention of France, Germany and Russia against the Japanese occupation of the Liaodong Peninsula. While this single event was an unstable basis for an alliance, the case was strengthened by the support Britain had given Japan in its drive towards modernisation and their co-operative efforts to put down the Boxer Rebellion. Newspapers of both countries voiced support for such an alliance; in the UK, Francis Brinkley of The Times and Edwin Arnold of the Telegraph were the driving force behind such support, while in Japan the pro-alliance mood of politician Ōkuma Shigenobu stirred the Mainichi and Yomiuri newspapers into pro-alliance advocacy. The 1894 Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation had also paved the way for equal relations and the possibility of an alliance.

In the end, the common interest truly fuelling the alliance was opposition to Russian expansion. This was made clear as early as the 1890s, when the British diplomat Cecil Spring Rice identified that the United Kingdom and Japan working in concert was the only way to challenge Russian power in the region.[2] Negotiations began when Russia began to move into China. Nevertheless, both countries had their reservations. The UK was cautious of abandoning its policy of "splendid isolation", wary of antagonizing Russia, and unwilling to act on the treaty if Japan were to attack the United States. There were factions in the Japanese government that still hoped for a compromise with Russia, including the highly powerful political figure Hirobumi Itō, who had served four terms as Prime Minister of Japan. It was thought that friendship within Asia would be more amenable to the USA, which was uncomfortable with the rise of Japan as a power. Furthermore, the UK was unwilling to protect Japanese interests in Korea and likewise the Japanese were unwilling to support Britain in India.

Hayashi and Lord Lansdowne began their discussions in July 1901, and disputes over Korea and India delayed them until November. At this point, Hirobumi Itō requested a delay in negotiations in order to attempt a reconciliation with Russia. He was mostly unsuccessful, and Britain expressed concerns over duplicity on Japan's part, so Hayashi hurriedly re-entered negotiations in 1902.

Terms of the 1902 treaty

Punch cartoon (1905) accompanied by a quote from Rudyard Kipling that appeared in the British press after the treaty was renewed in 1905 illustrates the positive light that the alliance was seen in by the British public.

The treaty contained six articles:

Article 1

Article 2

Article 3

Article 4

Article 5

Article 6

Articles 2 and 3 were most crucial concerning war and mutual defence.

The treaty laid out an acknowledgement of Japanese interests in Korea without obligating the UK to help should a Russo-Japanese conflict arise on this account. Japan was not obligated to defend British interests in India.

Although written using careful and clear language, the two sides understood the Treaty slightly differently. The UK saw it as a gentle warning to Russia, while Japan was emboldened by it. From that point on, even those of a moderate stance refused to accept a compromise over the issue of Korea. Extremists saw it as an open invitation for imperial expansion.

Renewal in 1905 and 1911

Toyama Mitsuru honours Rash Behari Bose

The alliance was renewed and extended in scope twice, in 1905 and 1911. This was partly prompted by British suspicions about Japanese intentions in South Asia. Japan appeared to support Indian nationalism, tolerating visits by figures such as Rash Behari Bose. The July 1905 renegotiations allowed for Japanese support of British interests in India and British support for Japanese progress into Korea. By November of that year Korea was a Japanese protectorate, and in February 1906 Itō Hirobumi was posted as the Resident General to Seoul. At the renewal in 1911, Japanese diplomat Komura Jutarō played a key role to restore Japan's tariff autonomy.


The Meiji Emperor receiving the Order of the Garter in 1906, as a consequence of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance.

The alliance was announced on February 12, 1902.[4] In response, Russia sought to form alliances with France and Germany, which Germany declined. On 16 March 1902, a mutual pact was signed between France and Russia. China and the United States were strongly opposed to the alliance. Nevertheless, the nature of the Anglo-Japanese alliance meant that France was unable to come to Russia's aid in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 as this would have meant going to war with Britain.

Japanese armoured cruiser Nisshin of the Imperial Japanese Navy, in the Mediterranean (Malta, 1919).

The alliance's provisions for mutual defense prompted Japan to enter the First World War on the British side. Japan attacked the German base at Tsingtao in 1914 and forced the Germans to surrender (see Siege of Tsingtao). Japanese officers aboard British warships were casualties at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.[5] In 1917, Japanese warships were sent to the Mediterranean and assisted in the protection of allied shipping near Malta from U-boat attacks. A memorial at the Kalkara Naval Cemetery in Malta is dedicated to the 72 Japanese sailors who died in the conflict.[6] The Treaty also made possible the Japanese seizure of German possessions in the Pacific north of the equator during the First World War, a huge boon to Japan's imperial interests.

The Peacock Skirt, by Aubrey Beardsley, shows significant Japanese influence

The alliance formed the basis for positive trading and cultural exchanges between Britain and Japan. Rapid industrialization and the development of the Japanese armed forces provided significant new export opportunities for British shipyards and arms manufacturers. Japanese educated in the UK were also able to bring new technology to Japan, such as advances in ophthalmology. British artists of the time such as James McNeill Whistler, Aubrey Beardsley and Charles Rennie Mackintosh were heavily inspired by Japanese kimono, swords, crafts and architecture.


There remained strains on Anglo-Japanese relations during the years of the alliance. One such strain was the racial question. Although originally a German notion, the Japanese perceived that the British had been affected by idea of Yellow Peril, on account of their recalcitrance in the face of Japanese imperial success. This issue returned at Versailles after the First World War when the UK sided with the U.S. against Japan's request of the addition of Racial Equality Proposal, 1919, proposed by Prince Kinmochi Saionji. The racial question was difficult for Britain because of its multi-ethnic empire.

Another strain was the Twenty-One Demands which Japan made of China in 1915. This unequal treaty would have given Japan varying degrees of control over all of China, and would have prohibited European powers from extending their Chinese operations any further.[7]

Demise of the treaty

Rear Admiral Jisaku Uozumi signs the surrender of Penang aboard the battleship HMS Nelson on 2 September 1945. He fainted shortly afterwards and was rushed to hospital. Note the Distinguished Service Cross ribbon on Uozumi's uniform, which he had earned from the British during the alliance.[8]

The alliance was viewed as an obstacle already at the Paris peace conference of 1919–1920. On 8 July 1920, the two governments issued a joint statement to the effect that the alliance treaty "is not entirely consistent with the letter of that Covenant (of the League of Nations), which both Governments earnestly desire to respect".[9]

The demise of the alliance was signaled by the 1921 Imperial Conference, in which leaders from throughout the British Commonwealth convened to determine a unified international policy.[10] One of the major issues of the conference was the renewal of the Anglo–Japanese Alliance. The conference began with all but Canadian Prime Minister Arthur Meighen supporting the immediate renewal of an alliance with Japan. The prevailing hope was for a continuance of the alliance with the Pacific power, which could potentially provide security for Commonwealth interests in the area.[11] The Australians feared that it could not fend off any advancements from the Japanese navy, and desired a continuance to build up naval resources for a possible future conflict with the fear that an alliance with the United States in a state of post-war isolationism would provide little protection.[12]

Meighen, fearing that a conflict could develop between Japan and the United States, demanded the Commonwealth to remove itself from the treaty to avoid being forced into a war between the two nations. The rest of the delegates agreed that it was best to court America and try to find a solution that the American government would find suitable, but only Meighen called for the complete abrogation of the treaty.[13] The American government feared that the renewal of the Anglo–Japanese Alliance would create a Japanese dominated market in the Pacific, and close China off from American trade.[14] These fears were elevated by the news media in America and Canada, which reported alleged secret anti-American clauses in the treaty, and advised the public to support abrogation.[15]

The press, combined with Meighen's convincing argument of Canadian fears that Japan would attack Commonwealth assets in China, caused the Imperial Conference to shelve the alliance.[16] The conference communicated their desire to consider leaving the alliance to the League of Nations, which stated that the alliance would continue, as originally stated with the leaving party giving the other a twelve-month notice of their intentions.[17]

The Commonwealth had decided to sacrifice its alliance with Japan in favour of good will with the United States, yet it desired to prevent the expected alliance between Japan and either Germany or Russia from coming into being.[18] Commonwealth delegates convinced America to invite several nations to Washington to participate in talks regarding Pacific and Far East policies, specifically naval disarmament.[19] Japan came to the Washington Naval Conference with a deep mistrust of Britain, feeling that London no longer wanted what was best for Japan.[20]

Despite the growing rift, Japan joined the conference in hopes of avoiding a war with the United States.[21] The Pacific powers of the United States, Japan, France and the United Kingdom would sign the Four-Power Treaty, and adding on various other countries such as China to create the Nine-Power Treaty. The Four Powers Treaty would provide a minimal structure for the expectations of international relations in the Pacific, as well as a loose alliance without any commitment to armed alliances.[22] The Four Powers Treaty at the Washington Conference made the Anglo–Japanese Alliance defunct in December, 1921; however, it would not officially terminate until all parties ratified the treaty on 17 August 1923.[23]

At that time, the Alliance was officially terminated, as per Article IV in the Anglo–Japanese Alliance Treaties of 1902 and 1911.[24] The distrust between the Commonwealth and Japan, as well as the manner in which the Anglo–Japanese Alliance concluded, are credited by many scholars as being leading causes in Japan's involvement in the Second World War.[25]


  1. "a home away from home - since 1935". The Lansdowne Club. Archived from the original on 13 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-05.
  2. Burton, David Henry (1990). Cecil Spring Rice: A Diplomat's Life. Page 100: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. ISBN 978-0-8386-3395-3.
  3. Saturday, 22 August 2009 Michael Duffy (2009-08-22). "First World - Primary Documents - Anglo-Japanese Alliance, 30 January 1902". Retrieved 2010-05-05.
  4. Sydney Morning Herald, 13 February 1902.
  5. 1916 newspaper casualty lists, Toronto Public Library.
  6. Zammit, Roseanne (27 March 2004). "Japanese lieutenant's son visits Japanese war dead at Kalkara cemetery". Times of Malta. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  7. Gowen, Robert (1971). "Great Britain and the Twenty-One Demands of 1915: Cooperation versus Effacement". The Journal of Modern History. University of Chicago. 43 (1): 76–106. ISSN 0022-2801.
  8. "After some delay, and a failure to attend an earlier meeting, the Japanese local commander, Rear Admiral Jisaku Uzumi, came aboard HMS Nelson on the evening of 2 September, wearing the DSC he had earned as Britain's ally in the 1914-18 war, and surrendered the garrison. He fainted and was rushed to hospital; the military policemen who carried him there took his sword as a souvenir." Bayly & Harper, page 49
  9. Text of the statement in League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 1, p. 24.
  10. Vinson, J. C. "The Imperial Conference of 1921 and the Anglo-Japanese alliance." Pacific Historical Review 31, no. 3 (1962): 258
  11. Vinson, J. C. "The Imperial Conference of 1921 and the Anglo-Japanese alliance," 258.
  12. Brebner, J. B. "Canada, The Anglo-Japanese Alliance and the Washington Conference." Political Science Quarterly 50, no. 1 (1935): 52
  13. Vinson, J. C. "The Imperial Conference of 1921 and the Anglo-Japanese alliance." Pacific Historical Review 31, no. 3 (1962): 257
  14. Spinks, Charles N. "The Termination of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance." Pacific Historical Review 6, no. 4 (1937): 324
  15. Spinks, Charles N. "The Termination of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance." Pacific Historical Review 6, no. 4 (1937): 326.
  16. Nish, Ian H. Alliance in Decline: A Study in Anglo-Japanese Relations 1908-23. (London: The Athlone Press, 1972), 334
  17. Nish, Ian H. Alliance in Decline: A Study in Anglo-Japanese Relations 1908-23. (London: The Athlone Press, 1972), 337.
  18. Kennedy, Malcolm D. The Estrangement of Great Britain and Japan. (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969), 54
  19. Nish, Ian H. Alliance in Decline, 381.
  20. Nish, Ian H. Alliance in Decline, 354.
  21. Nish, Ian H. Alliance in Decline, 381
  22. Nish, Ian H. Alliance in Decline, 378.
  23. Nish, Ian H. Alliance in Decline, 383.
  24. Spinks, Charles N. "The Termination of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance." Pacific Historical Review 6, no. 4 (1937): 337
  25. Kennedy, Malcolm D. The Estrangement of Great Britain and Japan. (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969), 56

See also


External links

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