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Japan, Relations with


JAPAN, RELATIONS WITH. Relations between Japan and the United States have been a complex mix of cooperation, competition, and conflict from the moment that Commodore Matthew C. Perry arrived at Edo Bay in 1853 and demanded an end to more than two centuries of Japanese isolation. Just a decade earlier, Britain had imposed the unequal Treaty of Nanjing on China after the First Opium War. Perry's display of naval power persuaded Japan's leaders to sign the Treaty of Kanagawa in 1854, providing for the opening of two ports to U.S. ships, better treatment of American shipwrecked sailors, acceptance of a U.S. consul at Shimoda, and most-favored-nation privileges. Townsend Harris, the first U.S. minister to Japan, negotiated additional agreements to expand U.S. rights in Japan. The United States thus had demonstrated to Japan how economic weakness had left it vulnerable. Hostility to foreign dictation ignited a rebellion that restored the Meiji emperor and initiated a process of rapid modernization and industrialization in which Japanese leaders learned and borrowed from Western nations, especially the United States.

Japanese Power in East Asia

In 1871, Iwakura Tomomi led a mission to the United States and Europe that sought revision of the unequal treaties and access to foreign knowledge. This firsthand contact with the West confirmed the necessity for wholesale economic, political, and social changes to attain equality. After two decades of Japanese westernization, the United States acknowledged Japan's rising power and importance in the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Commerce and Navigation, signed in 1894, which abolished extraterritoriality (exemption of foreign residents from the laws of the host country) and provided for reciprocal rights of residence and travel. That same year, Japan went to war against China, registering an easy victory and obtaining control over Korea, Taiwan, and southern Manchuria. Russia then challenged Japan's dominance over Korea, resulting in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. Japan's decisive triumph on land and at sea over a Western nation marked its arrival as a major power.

At first, President Theodore Roosevelt welcomed Japan's success in checking Russia's challenge to the Open Door policy in Asia, but he soon feared Japanese domination. In 1905, he acted to create a balance of power in the area when he mediated a treaty ending the war. Aware that Japan held the strategic advantage, Roosevelt acknowledged its control over Korea in the 1905 Taft-Katsura Memorandum in return for Japanese recognition of U.S. rule in the Philippines in the 1908 Root-Takahira Agreement. Meanwhile, rising tension between the two nations had reached a climax after California placed limits on the rights of Japanese Americans, which Roosevelt condemned and ameliorated with the Gentlemen's Agreement in 1908, stipulating that the Japanese government would restrict Japanese emigration to the United States, while Roosevelt would work to repeal discriminatory laws. President William Howard Taft's "dollar diplomacy" in Manchuria then angered Japan, but this did not prevent the signing of a bilateral treaty in 1911 granting full tariff autonomy to Japan.

During World War I, Japan once again challenged the U.S. Open Door policy when it declared war on Germany and seized its Pacific colonies and leaseholds in China. When President Woodrow Wilson did not protest, Japan concluded that Washington would not interfere in its expansion as long as it threatened no vital U.S. interests in the Pacific. In 1915, Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan reinforced this assumption after Japan imposed the Twenty-one Demands on China, when he informed Tokyo and Beijing that the United States only would refuse to recognize limits on the Open Door policy. But after the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, Washington, to display unity with its Japanese ally, signed the Lansing-Ishii Agreement, affirming the open door in China, as well as China's independence, but also conceding contradictorily that Japan had special interests in China. Tokyo would confirm its wartime territorial gains in the Versailles Treaty ending World War I, but resented Wilson's refusal to include a racial equality clause in the League of Nations Covenant. Angry and bitter, Japan resorted thereafter to militarism and war to achieve the status and respect that it thought it had earned.

American leaders targeted Japan as the main threat to peace and stability in east Asia during the 1920s, although Tokyo at first endorsed international cooperation. At Washington in 1922, Japan signed treaties that provided for U.S. and British superiority in naval armaments and ensured an open door in China. Nevertheless, the U.S. military prepared plans in 1924 for war with Japan. China's unification in 1928 then accelerated the triumph of Japanese militarism because of Chinese determination to regain Manchuria, Japan's primary target for imperial trade and investment. Acceptance of new limits on Japanese naval power in the London Naval Treaty of 1930 so infuriated the Japanese military that extremists assassinated the prime minister. In September 1931, young officers in the Japanese army stationed in Manchuria staged an explosion on the South Manchuria Railway and blamed it on Chinese forces, exploiting the incident to justify total military occupation of the region. In response, Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson sent letters of protest to both Japan and China, declaring that Washington would not recognize changes in the status quo achieved through a resort to force.

Neither Stimson's words nor the threat of sanctions from the League of Nations deterred Japan, as Tokyo created the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932. Thereafter, the Soviet Union's support for communist parties in Asia reinforced increasing sympathy for Nazi Germany, leading Japan to join the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936. Militants determined to create a "New Order in Asia" under Japanese direction then gained control over the government. Exploiting an exchange of gun fire between Chinese and Japanese soldiers near Beijing in July 1937, Japan initiated what would become a protracted war that led to the occupation of China's most populated and productive areas. Washington continued to issue only verbal protests against Japan's aggressive behavior because the refusal of the American people to risk a new war precluded stronger action. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech in October 1937 calling for a "quarantine" of aggressors ignited a firestorm of criticism. In December, a Japanese pilot attacked and sunk the U.S.S. Panay on the Yangtze River, but this incident merely reinforced American isolationism.

World War II and Aftermath

After World War II began in Europe in September 1939, Japan invited war with the United States the next year when it signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy and invaded French Indochina. To deter Japan, the United States imposed sweeping economic sanctions, while also providing increasing aid and advice to China. During negotiations in Washington with Japan's ambassador in April 1941, Secretary of State Cordell Hull insisted that Japan not only respect the Open Door policy but evacuate all captured territories. In July, after Japan occupied southern Indochina, Roosevelt cut off oil and froze Japanese assets in the United States. In October, Japan's leaders decided that compromise was unlikely and opted for war, hoping to deliver a knockout blow to U.S. naval power in the Pacific before the United States could mobilize, thereby compelling Washington to accept Japanese dominance over east Asia. The strategy failed because Japan's 7 December attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii scored only a tactical victory, while galvanizing Americans for an all-out war against Japan.

Japan quickly conquered the Philippines, Malaya, and Burma, expecting realization of its dream of creating a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The Japanese mistakenly believed the United States would accept their new order in Asia or be unable to penetrate an impregnable defensive perimeter of fortified bases. Americans mobilized far superior military potential and economic resources to overwhelm Japan. By the summer of 1942, U.S. naval forces had won key victories at Coral Sea and Midway, imposing thereafter a suffocating blockade that created severe shortages of food and raw materials. After island-hopping isolated Japanese outposts, the United States bombed Japan's industry and housing from the air. The Japanese fought on ferociously, suffering massive losses on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In August 1945, Japan was in ruins when U.S. atomic bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, forcing Japan to surrender.

Japan expected a harsh and vindictive occupation, but American rule was benevolent and constructive. As Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), General Douglas MacArthur and his staff enacted a series of reforms that helped create an open society based on capitalism and representative government. Article 9 of Japan's new constitution renounced war forever. But in 1947, the adverse impact of SCAP's economic reforms designed to eliminate the foundations of authoritarianism and militarism became obvious, as the atmosphere of physical and psychological devastation had not disappeared. Consistent with its new containment policy, the United States abandoned further reforms in favor of promoting rapid economic recovery, pursuing a "reverse course" aimed at transforming Japan into a bulwark against Soviet expansion in Asia. Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru believed, however, that the occupation had to end if Japan was to emerge as a genuine U.S. partner in the Cold War. In September 1951, the Japanese Peace Treaty provided for a restoration of Japan's sovereignty the following April, but at the price of dependence, as Japan signed a security treaty with the United States that guaranteed its military protection in return for American use of air bases.

During the 1950s, Japan's relationship with the United States remained a source of heated controversy, not least because pacifism remained strong in Japan as a consequence of the devastation of war and public horror after the atomic attacks. Opposition to nuclear weapons intensified in 1954 after radioactivity from an American hydrogen bomb test on Bikini Atoll showered a Japanese fishing boat. Public protests persuaded the Socialists to reunite, which brought gains in the 1955 elections and motivated conservatives to form the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). That same year, in negotiations for revision of the security treaty, the United States resumed pressure on Japan to expand the overseas role of its Self-Defense Force. This enraged many Japanese because it seemed to suggest that Japan might undertake military commitments in the Pacific. Prime Minister Kishi Nobosuke defied critics and in 1960 signed a revised treaty that, despite providing for a more equal partnership, was the target of fierce opposition in the Diet, Japan's national legislature. Ratification of the treaty in May in the absence of the boycotting dissenters set off massive street demonstrations during June that resulted in President Dwight D. Eisenhower canceling his scheduled visit to Tokyo.

Japanese Economic Power

During the 1960s, Japan adopted a "low posture" in foreign policy that placed a priority on transforming itself into an economic power. The U.S. government cooperated by encouraging high levels of Japanese exports to the United States, while allowing Japan's protection of its domestic market. Despite disputes over trade, the relation-ship remained stable because Japan achieved double-digit annual economic growth, while the United States ran a favorable balance of trade. U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia soon strained relations, as many Japanese criticized Washington for suppressing nationalism rather than communism. There also were protests against the periodic visits of U.S. nuclear submarines to Japan. Led by the conservative LDP, the Japanese government endorsed the military effort in Vietnam, but rebuffed U.S. pressure to do more. More important, Japanese industry used the profits from the sale of many nonmilitary supplies for use in Vietnam to modernize and shift its exports to the United States from textiles, cameras, and transistor radios to sophisticated consumer electronics, automobiles, and machinery. After 1965, in a dramatic reversal, Japan sold more to the United States than it bought, its annual surplus increasing from a few billion dollars early in the 1970s to the $60 billion range by the 1990s.

A more immediate and serious source of friction was the U.S. refusal to end its occupation of the Ryukyu and Bonin Islands. Washington considered the military base on Okinawa as vital to containing the People's Republic of China (PRC) and sustaining the war in Southeast Asia. In November 1969, President Richard Nixon, having begun withdrawal from Vietnam, agreed to restore Japanese control of Okinawa, while retaining U.S. base rights. But the "Nixon shocks" rocked U.S.-Japan relations, the first coming in July 1971, when Nixon announced that he would visit the PRC. Since the Korean War, Japan had supported the U.S. policy of isolating the PRC and placed limits on Sino-Japanese trade. Prime Minister Sato Eisaku was stung after learning about the opening of relations with Beijing just hours before the announcement. Japan's rising trade surplus with the United States was responsible for the other shocks. Nixon imposed taxes on imports, ended the convertibility between dollars and gold, and threatened quotas on textile imports. Japan acquiesced to U.S. demands, but exports continued unabated.

A receding communist threat in Asia after 1975 made it more difficult for the United States to dictate relations with Japan. Only after persistent pressure from Washington did Japan agree to pay more of the costs incurred by U.S. military forces there and elevate levels of internal defense spending. Frustrated U.S. officials and business leaders attributed Japan's continuing economic growth to an alliance between bureaucrats, corporations, and the LDP ("Japan, Inc."), who conspired to control foreign markets, while using various ruses to limit U.S. access to Japanese consumers. U.S. workers and politicians blamed the decline of the U.S. automobile industry on Japan's car exports. During the 1980s, huge budget deficits resulted in Japanese banks lending hundreds of billions of dollars to the U.S. government, and Japanese corporations bought U.S. real estate and companies. A 1989 poll revealed that more Americans feared Japanese economic competition than the Soviet military threat. That same year, a Japanese politician and business leader coauthored a popular book that called on Japan to resist U.S. bullying.

Despite the troubled state of U.S.-Japanese relations during the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan established an effective working relationship with Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro, who supported his anti-Soviet policies. Then, in 1991, the fall of the Soviet Union eliminated the main reason for the postwar U.S.-Japan security alliance. But Tokyo already was resisting U.S. pressure to assume greater responsibility for preserving world peace and security. Japan contributed $13 billion to finance the Gulf War of 1991, but this was ridiculed as "checkbook diplomacy," especially after the Diet delayed passage of a bill to allow Japan's military forces to join in United Nations peacekeeping activities. By then, Japan's "bubble economy" had collapsed, and Tokyo was reluctant, as the recession continued, to abandon protectionist economic policies. In 1995, President Bill Clinton threatened tariff retaliation, while Japanese officials warned of an impending trade war. Two years later, the financial collapse in Asia created an economic crisis in Japan that provided Washington with leverage to achieve some success in persuading Tokyo to increase domestic demand and lower tariffs, thereby reducing the U.S. trade deficit. As the new century began, U.S.-Japan relations were unstable and unpredictable, as the two nations struggled to redefine their roles.


Buckley, Roger. U.S.-Japan Alliance Diplomacy, 1945–1990. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

LaFeber, Walter. The Clash: A History of U.S.-Japan Relations. New York: Norton, 1997.

Matray, James I. Japan's Emergence as a Global Power. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Neu, Charles E. The Troubled Encounter: The United States and Japan. New York: Wiley, 1975.

Schaller, Michael. Altered States: The United States and Japan Since the Occupation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

James I.Matray

See alsoDollar Diplomacy ; Open Door Policy ; Panay Incident ; World War II ; andvol. 9:War against Japan .

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Japan, Relations with


Russian-Japanese relations throughout the twentieth century were characterized by hostility, mutual suspicion, and military conflict. Foreign policy perceptions, policies, and behaviors shaped the relationship, as did personalities, issues, and disputesmost notably the dispute over the four Kuril islands, or northern territories, in Japanese parlance. Japan and the USSR emerged from World War II with radically different views of security: the former inward-looking and defensive, with constrained military capabilities; the latter outward-looking, offensive, and militaristic. The Japanese were convinced that internal law and justice dictated the return of the southern Kurils, while the Soviets asserted that territory acquired by war could not be relinquished. Post-Soviet Russia has been more amenable to discussing the territorial issue, but progress has been glacial.

Russian explorers first pushed southward from Kamchatka into the Kuril island chain, encountering Japanese settlers in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The two countries eventually agreed on a border, with the 1855 Treaty of Shimoda granting Etorofu and the islands south of it to Japan. Russia's push into Manchuria and construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway late in the nineteenth century threatened Japan's growing

imperial interests in China and led to the Russo-Japanese War of 19041905. The 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth, brokered by U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt, ended the war and gave Japan control of coal-rich Sakhalin south of the fiftieth parallel along with the adjacent islands.

Formally Russia's ally during World War I, Japan became alarmed at the Bolshevik coup in 1917 and subsequently deployed some 73,000 troops to protect its interests in the Russian Far East. Japan withdrew from Russia in 1922 but negotiated concessions for natural resources in northern Sakhalin. Tensions remained high during most of the interwar period, and there were armed clashes along the Soviet border with Japanese-occupied Manchuria between 1937 and 1939. Moscow and Tokyo negotiated a neutrality pact in April 1941. The two armies clashed only during the final days of the war, as the Red Army swept through Manchuria and occupied all of Sakhalin and the Kurils. Nearly 600,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians were captured and interned in Soviet labor camps; roughly one-third of them perished in Siberia.

Relations between Japan and the USSR during the Cold War were tense and distant. The Soviet government refused to sign the Japanese Peace Treaty at the 1951 San Francisco Conference, which in any event failed to specify ownership of Sakhalin and the Kurils. Differing interpretations over sovereignty of the islands would preclude a Russo-Japanese peace treaty well into the twenty-first century. The Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956 normalized relations and proposed the return of Shikotan and the Habomais (an idea quashed by U.S. secretary of state John Foster Dulles), but it failed to solve the territorial issue. Moscow objected to the U.S.-Japan security relationship, and from the 1960s through the 1980s targeted part of its substantial military force deployed in the Russian Far East toward Japan.

For much of the postwar era Russo-Japanese relations reflected the competition between the Soviet Union and the United States. For Washington, Japan was the key ally against Communist expansion in the western Pacific. The Soviet leadership in the Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev eras seems to have regarded Japan as merely an extension of the United States, and consistently blamed Japan for the poor state of Russo-Japanese relations. Stalemate on the territorial issue served American interests by maintaining confrontation between Japan and Russia, ensuring the Soviets would need to commit resources to protect their sparsely populated eastern borders.

Moscow's leadership refused to acknowledge Japan as a significant international actor in its own right, even as the country developed into an export powerhouse with the world's second largest economy. Moscow's approach to Japan must be viewed in the context of Soviet global and regional considerations, especially the Cold War competition with America and, after 1961, the deterioration of ties with Communist China. The Kremlin's foreign policy architects generally viewed Japan with disdain. They seldom relied on the considerable expertise of the USSR's Japan specialists and frequently pursued contradictory goals with regard to Japan.

Cultural distance also may explain part of the antipathy between Russia and Japan. Public opinion surveys indicate that Russia consistently ranks at the top of countries most disliked by Japanese. Russians are considerably more favorably inclined to Japan, but in many respects their two civilizations are very different. Tellingly, the collapse of the Soviet Union was not enough to provoke a sudden upsurge of pro-Russian sentiment, as it did in much of Europe and the United States.

Not until Mikhail Gorbachev's "new thinking" did Soviet foreign policy show much flexibility toward Japan. Gorbachev and his foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze were more attentive to their Asia specialists, but they ranked Japan relatively low on the list of foreign policy priorities, after ties with the United States, Europe, and China. By the time Gorbachev visited Tokyo in April 1991, his freedom to maneuver was constrained by a backlash from conservatives in Moscow that, combined with growing nationalist and regional opposition, made any progress on the territorial issue virtually impossible.

Russo-Japanese relations did not improve markedly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russian president Boris Yeltsin's 1993 meeting with Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa produced the Tokyo Declaration, in which the two sides pledged to negotiate the territorial issue on the basis of historical facts and the principles of law and justice. But the two sides interpreted these terms differently. Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto (19961998) tried a package approach to relations, bundling a wide range of issues including trade, energy, security, and cultural exchanges, and he came closer to reaching an accord than had any previous Japanese ese leader. But the flurry of informal summits and intensified diplomatic activity in the late 1990s failed either to deliver a peace treaty or to enhance economic cooperation.

Prospects for trade and investment improved early in the twenty-first century as Tokyo urged Moscow to approve a Siberian oil pipeline to the eastern coast, competing with a Chinese bid for a route to Daqing. Relations were said to be entering a new, businesslike phase following the January 2003 summit between President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. But as in the latter half of the twentieth century, the territorial dispute remained the touchstone for Russo-Japanese relations.

See also: kuril islands; russo-japanese war


Ivanov, Vladimir I., and Smith, Karla S., eds. (1999). Japan and Russia in Northeast Asia: Partners in the 21st Century. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Kimura, Hiroshi. (2000). Distant Neighbors, Vol. 1: Japanese-Russian Relations under Brezhnev and Andropov; Vol. 2: Japanese-Russian Relations under Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.

Nimmo, William F. (1994). Japan and Russia: A Reevaluation in the Post-Soviet Era. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Rozman, Gilbert, ed. (2000). Japan and Russia: The Tortuous Path to Normalization, 1949-1999. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Charles E. Ziegler

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Japan, relations with

Japan, relations with. Britain was among the powers to follow up the American initiative which opened Japan to the West from the 1850s, and to provide models upon which the Japanese based their modernization from 1868 (especially the development of their navy). The British were pioneers in the renegotiation of the unequal treaties which governed Japan's relations with the West, an agreement being reached in 1894. In January 1902 Britain and Japan became allies, the Admiralty being especially anxious for assistance in offsetting Russian and French naval power in the Far East. Japan's victory in the war against Russia in 1904–5 added temporarily to British security at sea and on the north-west frontier of India, but increasing Anglo-Japanese trade competition soon developed in China. The alliance from 1911 was largely designed by Britain to restrain Japan and to facilitate the navy's concentration in home waters against Germany. Japan's assistance to Britain in 1914–18 was balanced by her advancing influence in China. Yet the alliance was given up in 1921–2 only in response to American pressure and in the context of efforts to regulate competition in the Far East. British interests, however, were dangerously exposed when Japan embarked upon an increasingly aggressive policy from 1931. German successes in Europe made the British empire ever more vulnerable as Japan advanced into south-east Asia. War broke out in December 1941. The loss of Malaya and Singapore soon followed, defeats often seen as a turning-point in the history of the empire. Commonwealth forces later took the offensive, but it was the USA which was primarily responsible for Japan's defeat in 1945. By the 1980s and 1990s it seemed as if the wheel was coming full circle with Japanese industry and investment helping to revitalize the British economy.

C. J. Bartlett

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