War and Peace in East Asia, Lecture 6

Today we covered the Russo-Japanese War, but I ended up spending most class time on two things: (a) the terms of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and (b) Japan’s care to respect neutral ships at Inchon—foregoing opportunities to sink some Russian ones—even after nominally violating international law by initiating hostilities before a declaration of war. My thoughts on the latter are evolving, so I’m saving them, but the first point is, I think, fairly interesting.

The Anglo-Japanese treaty stipulated, according to Connaughton, that should one side become embroiled in a war in the region, the other would (a) act to keep the war from expanding but (b), if that failed and another party entered the fray, fight alongside its ally. It’s an interesting combination of a neutrality(ish) agreement and defense pact, and while it arguably helped keep the war limited—not many European powers would want to take on the Royal Navy far from the Continent, I suspect—it might well have emboldened Japan because of the assurance that its war with Russia would remain bilateral.

Entering the realm of speculation, I’m guessing that the British wouldn’t have been too broken up to see the war knock the Russians down a peg or two, so they wouldn’t have been terribly interested in restraining Japan. However, this does serve as a nice table setting for our discussion later of alliances, moral hazard, and strategic ambiguity across the Taiwan Strait later in the semester.

Oh, and I’m totally keeping this neutrality rights thing to myself for now. Totally.