Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
The Sino-Japanese conflict from 1894 to 1895 was "the first large-scale aggressive war in modern times," says Mayo (p. 75). It grew out of a dispute in Korea, which had traditionally been a tributary kingdom of China. Another of Japan's objectives was to obtain the island of Taiwan from China. Russia, Germany and France intervened when Japan won the Liaotung Peninsula which the three powers demanded its return to China. It is suggested that Russia stepped in because it wanted Korea to be recognized as independent and because China was going to let Russia build the railway across Chinese territory. "In this development Russia appears to have been the ringleader, Germany the enthusiastic supporter and France the independent-minded and reluctant follower." (Ian Nish, The Origins of the Russo-Japanese War, p. 19). On April 17, China accepted the peace Treaty of Shimonoseki. After a ten-year period Japan, which declared war on Russia in February 1904, was again the aggressor. Mayo attributed Japan's policy to its ambition to join "the ranks of the world power" (p. 19). It accused of Russia of being an expansionist in Manchuria and Korea. "But there can be little doubt that Japan . . . wanted a stake in Korea for herself and, from her Korean foothold, wanted a share in the Chinese cake as it crumbled," says Nish (p. 243).
Three decades later Japan created the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937- 1941 so that it could have a series of autonomous buffer states in Inner Mongolia and North China to protect Japan's puppet state Manchukuo. "[In] Japanese eyes, the wicked folly of anti-Japanism in China, with its economic boycotts, agitation, and violence, must come to and end; and . . . China must accept Japanese help in her fight against communism," says Paul Schroeder (The Axis Alliance and Japanese-American Relations 1941, p. 8). When Germany and Italy sided with Japan on September 27, 1940, it became apparent that the problems in Europe and Asia were linked. The conflict, which lasted four years, was the beginning of World War II.
On Sunday, December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, prompting American retaliation the following day. The first large-scale air attack against Japan was launched on April 18, 1942. The world would continue for three more years until the ultimate catastrophe -- the only time throughout Japanese history that it has been a victim. "Although there is no definite proof that the makers of modern Japan deliberately adopted war as an instrument of national policy," writes Mayo, "the manner in which each war led logically to the next hints strongly that there was a master-plan behind the whole program of conquest" (p. 34).
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