Protectorates and Spheres of Influence

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Protectorates and Spheres of Influence

Raymond A. Esthus

The word "protectorate" usually describes the relation between a protecting state and a protected state, though it sometimes may describe the country under protection. In a protectorate relationship, the protecting state normally assumes control of the foreign relations of the protected state in addition to providing for its defense. Often the protecting state has some control over the internal affairs of the protected state. As to the status of a protecting state in international law, the Permanent Court of International Justice in 1923 rendered an advisory opinion stating that the extent of the powers of a protecting state depended upon the treaties between it and the protected state that established the protectorate, and upon the conditions under which the protectorate was recognized by third powers whose interests were affected by the protectorate treaty. The court went on to observe that despite common features possessed by protectorates under international law, they had individual legal characteristics resulting from the special conditions under which they were created. United States protectorates, as traditionally defined, have been limited to the Caribbean area, except for a brief protectorate over Hawaii in 1893.

The term "sphere of influence" signifies a claim by a state to some degree of control or preferential status in a foreign territory or in some region of the world. It may refer to a military, political, or economic claim to exclusive control or influence that other nations may or may not recognize. As in the case of protectorates, the legal status of a sphere depends upon the treaties establishing it and the extent to which other affected nations recognize it. American policy regarding spheres of influence has not adhered to a definite pattern. On many of the treaties creating spheres, the United States has not had occasion or necessity to take a stand. In cases where a position has been taken, policy has varied greatly. Generally, advocacy of an Open Door policy for trade and investment has placed the United States in opposition to spheres of influence, but on occasion it has not only acquiesced but actually looked with favor upon spheres.


When the white sugar barons in Hawaii over-threw the native dynasty in 1893, the United States minister to Hawaii, John L. Stevens, proclaimed a protectorate. Stevens acted without instructions from Washington, and the incoming administration of Grover Cleveland soon repudiated the arrangement. In addition to this short-lived protectorate over Hawaii, the relationship between the United States and Samoa in 18891899 has sometimes been characterized as a protectorate, specifically a tripartite protectorate of the United States, Great Britain, and Germany over Samoa. It is doubtful, however, that the United States possessed sufficient rights or obligations in Samoa to justify the use of the word "protectorate" in this case.

The first United States protectorate in the Caribbean was established when the Platt Amendment was incorporated in a treaty with Cuba in 1903. Having helped Cuba win its freedom from Spain, the United States endeavored to assure the political and financial stability of the island republic by limiting its freedom. The Platt Amendment, initially written by Secretary of War Elihu Root, had been attached to the Army Appropriations Bill in 1901 by Senator Orville H. Platt. By one of its many provisions, the United States could intervene in Cuba for the preservation of Cuban independence and for the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty. This right of intervention was exercised in 19061909, and in subsequent years various American missions were sent to the island to untangle electoral difficulties and financial problems. This protectorate lasted until the administrations of Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt fashioned the Good Neighbor Policy in the early 1930s. In a new treaty signed in 1934, the United States relinquished all its Platt Amendment rights except the right to retain a naval base at Guantánamo Bay.

The acquisition of the Cuban protectorate in 1903 was followed in the same year by the establishment of a protectorate over Panama. Having aided a Panamanian rebellion against Colombia, the administration of Theodore Roosevelt proceeded to secure valuable Canal Zone rights from the newly created nation. Simultaneously, the United States sought to protect these rights by making Panama a protectorate. In the canal treaty signed by Secretary of State John Hay and the Panamanian minister to the United States, Philippe Bunau-Varilla, the United States agreed to guarantee and maintain the independence of Panama. Outside the Canal Zone, which it administered, the United States could use lands necessary and convenient for the operation and protection of the canal. It also could intervene to maintain public order in the cities of Panama and Colón. These extensive powers were reduced in 1936, when a new treaty was negotiated. The United States gave up most of its rights outside the Canal Zone. Also, the obligation to guarantee and maintain the independence of Panama was replaced by a provision stating that in the event of an international "conflagration" or the existence of a threat of aggression that endangered Panama or the security of the canal, the two governments would take such measures as they deemed necessary for the protection of their common interests. Measures taken by one government that might affect the territory of the other would be the subject of consultation. When the United States Senate approved the treaty in 1939, Panama agreed by an exchange of notes that in an emergency, consultation might follow rather than precede action. The United States thus retained at least a limited right of intervention to protect both Panama and the Canal Zone.

In 1977 the United States concluded two treaties with Panama that completely changed their relationship. The Canal Zone was abolished, and the canal was to be administered until 2000 by a joint commission. At the end of the interim period, the canal would be turned over to Panama. United States armed forces would be withdrawn by the end of 1999. The United States retained only the right to defend the neutrality of the canal.

Despite the restricted wording of the new treaty provision limiting the United States to defending the canal's neutrality, a U.S. intervention occurred in 1989 that could have been more easily justified under the old protectorate treaty rights. In the 1980s, politics in Panama became unstable, with demonstrations and attempted coups. There emerged from the chaos a military dictator, Manuel Noriega. From his position as commander of the National Defense Forces, he intimidated civilian political leaders and undermined the democratic processes. A pivotal turning point came in 1988 when two U.S. grand juries indicted Noriega on drug smuggling charges. When in December 1989 a rump political body named Noriega head of state, President George H. W. Bush sent in 24,000 U.S. troops to capture Noriega and restore civilian rule. Bush's administration based its legal position on the right to defend the neutrality of the canal. Noriega was captured and taken to the United States for trial. He was subsequently convicted of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine and sentenced to forty years in prison. Meanwhile, civilian government was reestablished and U.S. forces withdrew to the Canal Zone. In the years following the American intervention, Panama's politics remained somewhat chaotic, but the treaties of 1977 were nevertheless effectively carried out. In December 1999, the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Canal Zone was completed.

In addition to the protectorates of Cuba and Panama, the administration of Theodore Roosevelt sought to establish a protectorate over the Dominican Republic. Roosevelt feared that European creditor nations might intervene there to collect debts, and he feared particularly that Germany might thereby gain some lodgment in the Caribbean. This was one of the considerations that led to the enunciation in 1904 of the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, affirming that when debt default or other wrongdoing or impotence made intervention necessary in the Western Hemisphere, the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine required U.S. intervention.

Having announced this policy, Roosevelt proceeded to conclude a treaty with the Dominican government (1905) placing the collection of customs revenues under U.S. control and making the country a protectorate. The treaty provided that the United States would, at the request of the Dominican government, render assistance to preserve order. When the U.S. Senate delayed approval of the treaty, Roosevelt set up the customs receivership and applied the protectorate principle. With a characteristic flourish, the president told his secretary of the navy: "As to the Santo Domingo matter, tell Admiral [Royal B.] Bradford to stop any revolution. That this is ethically right, I am dead sure, even though there may be some technical or red tape difficulty." When Elihu Root became secretary of state later in 1905, he limited the protectorate role to protection of the customs administration. It was this policy that prevailed. When it became evident that the Senate would not approve the general protectorate provision, a new treaty, obligating the United States to protect only the customs administration, was concluded and approved (1907).

The administration of William Howard Taft made Nicaragua a protectorate in practice, though the relationship was never regularized by treaty. In 1911 a customs receivership was set up, even though the Senate failed to act on the treaty, concluded in that year, that provided for it. In 1912 marines were landed to aid the regime of President Adolfo Díaz against rebel forces. When the rebels were defeated, most of the troops were withdrawn, but a legation guard remained behind to police elections, train a Nicaraguan constabulary, and serve as a reminder that more troops could be landed. In 1913 the outgoing Taft administration signed a canal treaty with the Díaz government; it provided for the purchase by the United States, for $3 million, of an option on a canal route and leases on naval base sites.

The Senate did not take action on the treaty before Woodrow Wilson entered the White House, but the new administration did not repudiate the protectorate policy. On the contrary, at the request of the Nicaraguan government, it agreed to include in the treaty a new article giving the United States the right to intervene for the preservation of Nicaraguan independence and for the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee refused to approve this article, and Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan finally signed a new treaty in 1914 that omitted the protectorate provision and essentially reiterated the terms of the 1913 canal treaty. Even this treaty was held up in the Senate for two years before being approved. Meanwhile, U.S. troops remained in Nicaragua. They were withdrawn in 1925 but landed again in 1926 as a result of renewed revolutionary unrest. The protectorate-in-practice was not ended until January 1933, when the troops were withdrawn again. The control over the customs was not ended until 1944.

The failure of the Wilson administration to gain Senate approval for the Nicaraguan protectorate in 19131914 did not dissuade it from pursuing the protectorate policy in the Caribbean. Indeed, Wilson pushed the policy with far more vigor than his predecessors had. Theodore Roosevelt's policy toward the Dominican Republic had been motivated primarily by strategic considerations, especially the desire to protect the approaches to the Panama Canal. Taft had been motivated by this consideration, but he had also pursued a complementary interest, that of having U.S. capital force European bondholders out of the Caribbean area. The Wilson administration added to the strategic and financial motivations a missionary zeal to spread U.S. political institutions and practices to the nations of the Caribbean. As Wilson remarked on one occasion, he wished to teach the South Americans how to elect good men.

The protectorate policy was carried out most vigorously in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In 1915, when Haiti's chronic revolutionary disturbances reached a high point, Wilson wrote to Secretary of State Robert Lansing: "I fear we have not the legal authority to do what we apparently ought to do. I suppose there is nothing for it but to take the bull by the horns and restore order." Wilson proceeded to land troops and force a protectorate treaty upon the Haitian government. Restating the Platt Amendment formula, the treaty provided that the United States would "lend an efficient aid" for the preservation of Haitian independence and the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty. Along with this went a U.S. customs administration and a constabulary with officers from the United States. In 1916 the U.S. Senate approved the treaty without public debate. The outbreak of World War I and the developing submarine controversy with Germany had brought the Senate to share at least Wilson's strategic concerns, if not his politico-missionary zeal. The protectorate was to last until 1934, at which time the troops were withdrawn and the constabulary was "Haitianized." The treaty of 1916 actually expired in 1936, and until then the United States still had the right to intervene. The customs control lasted until 1941.

The intervention in the Dominican Republic came in 1916, the year after the neighboring Haitian protectorate was set up. The outbreak of a revolution in the Dominican Republic in that year brought the landing of U.S. troops. When Dominican authorities refused to cooperate in setting up a Haitian-style protectorate, U.S. military rule was imposed. Six years later this military regime allowed a provisional Dominican government to take office, and two years after that the military overlord ship was ended and the troops were withdrawn. The protectorate thus came to an end without having been regularized by treaty. The agreement concluded in 1924, at the time of the withdrawal, did provide, like the 1907 treaty, that the United States could protect the customs administration, which was to continue under its administration. This financial control, as in the case of Haiti, ended in 1941.

In the era preceding World War II, the policy of the United States toward the protectorates of other powers was generally to accept the establishment of protectorates and attempt to preserve as many of its rights in the protected state as was consistent with its overall interests. An example of this is the case of Morocco. By treaty between France and Morocco in 1912, France was given the right to occupy Morocco militarily, control Moroccan foreign relations, and station a French resident commissioner general in Morocco. Later in the same year, by agreement between France and Spain, the latter was allowed to assume a protectorate over small segments of Morocco. In recognizing the French protectorate in 1917, Secretary of State Lansing informed the French government that the question of U.S. extraterritorial rights, as well as other rights, would remain for later negotiation. In subsequent talks the United States refused to relinquish its extraterritorial rights. American recognition of the Spanish protectorate in Morocco was blocked by Spain's demand that the United States give up its extraterritorial rights with the act of recognition.

The United States has not always attempted to preserve its existing rights in recognizing another power's protectorate. When, as a consequence of victory in the Russo-Japanese War, Japan established a protectorate over Korea in 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt enthusiastically approved the development because he believed it would help secure a balance of power in East Asia. Subsequent U.S. policy continued to be shaped by this consideration as well as by the expectation that Japan would in time annex the area outright. The Roosevelt administration was not even greatly concerned about preserving commercial rights in Korea. When in 1907 some Japanese leaders considered the advisability of establishing a Japan-Korea customs uniona step that would enable Japan to dominate the Korean marketRoosevelt was willing to approve such a scheme if in return he could get some concession on the Japanese immigration question. In this case and in many other instances, U.S. policy toward the protectorates of other powers has varied and has been determined primarily by the overall national interests as interpreted by succeeding administrations.


The first agreement to use the term "spheres of influence" was one concluded between Britain and Germany (1885) that separated and defined their respective spheres in the territories on the Gulf of Guinea. By its provisions, Britain agreed not to acquire territory, accept protectorates, or interfere with the extension of German influence in that part of Guinea lying east of a specified line. Germany undertook a like commitment regarding Britain and the territory west of the line. As the terms of this treaty indicate, it is possible for a nation to have a protectorate within a sphere of influence when the sphere concept is applied in a broad regional sense.

In the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century, many agreements were concluded recognizing spheres of influence in Africa, the Middle East, and China. By the Anglo-French agreement of 8 April 1904, Britain recognized that Morocco was within France's sphere of influence and France recognized that Egypt was within Britain's sphere. Britain and Russia signed a treaty on 31 August 1907, specifying that Afghanistan was outside of Russia's spheremeaning, of course, that it was within Britain's. Persia was divided into three zones: a Russian sphere in the north, a British sphere in the south, and a neutral area in between.

In China, the spheres of influence were initially marked out in 18961898. At the beginning of that period, Russia secured from China the right to construct a railway line across Manchuria that would provide a short route for the Trans-Siberian Railway to reach Vladivostok on the Pacific coast. The Russian-owned Chinese Eastern Railway Company, which was to construct and operate the line, was given exclusive administrative control of the railway zone stretching across Manchuria. Two years later, in 1898, Russia secured from China a twenty-five-year lease on Port Arthur, a naval base site in southern Manchuria. By this agreement, Russia was also permitted to construct a north-south railway line between Port Arthur (Lüshun) and Harbin, thus connecting the naval base with the main line of the Chinese Eastern Railway running across Manchuria. Russia also secured some mining concessions in Manchuria.

The treaties between Russia and China did not specifically recognize Manchuria as a Russian sphere of influence, but by the end of 1898, Russia's rights in Manchuria were so extensive that it was apparent that the czarist regime would seek to dominate capital investment and to make its political influence preeminent in that area of China. An Anglo-Russian agreement in 1899 greatly strengthened Russia's claim to a Manchurian sphere of influence. Britain agreed not to seek any railway concessions north of China's Great Wall, which separated China proper from Manchuria and Inner Mongolia. Russia reciprocated with a pledge not to seek railway concessions in the Yangtze (Chang) Valley.

While Russia was seeking rights in Manchuria, Germany was gaining a sphere in China's Shantung (Shandong) province. Using the murder of two German missionaries as an excuse, Germany landed troops in Shantung in 1897 and proceeded to extract from China (1898) a treaty granting extensive rights in Shantung. By its terms, Germany obtained a ninety-nine-year lease of a naval base site at Kiaochow (Jiaoxian) on the southern coast of Shantung and the exclusive right to furnish all foreign capital and materials for projects in Shantung. Added to these sweeping rights were specific railway concessions and mining rights in the province. The monopoly on capital investment in Shantung province gave Germany a claim to a sphere of influence in China stronger than that of any other power.

The British and French spheres in China that were delineated in 1898 were not granted in such definitive terms. Britain's sphere in the Yangtze Valley rested primarily upon an Anglo-Chinese treaty concluded in February 1898, whereby China committed itself not to alienate any of the Yangtze areameaning that China could not cede or lease territory in that area to another power. Britain secured a lease on a naval base site on the China coast in the same year but not in the Yangtze area. It was, rather, on the northern coast of Shantung, across the Gulf of Chihli (Bo Hai) from the Russian base at Port Arthur. France's claim to a sphere in southern China rested partly upon specific concessions and partly upon a nonalienation agreement. In 1885, France began securing railway concessions in southern China, and in 1895, China agreed to call exclusively upon French capital for the exploitation of mines in the three southernmost provinces. In 1898, China concluded a treaty with France in which it agreed not to alienate any Chinese territories bordering French Indochina. Later in the same year, France obtained a ninety-nine-year lease on a naval base site at Kuangchow (Guangzhou) Bay, on China's southern coast.

As stated, although advocacy of an open door for trade and investment has generally led the United States to oppose spheres of influence, it has occasionally looked upon them with favor. During the Moroccan crisis of 19051906, for instance, the United States vigorously opposed any compromise that might lead to a German sphere in a portion of Morocco. At the same time, after receiving assurances that the open door would remain in effect for thirty years, the administration of Theodore Roosevelt voiced no opposition to terms of a settlement that obviously recognized Morocco as being in France's sphere. In fact, Roosevelt gave every indication that he favored a virtually complete takeover of Morocco by France.

It is with regard to spheres in China that American policy has been most thoroughly delineated. When in 1899 the United States enunciated the Open Door policy for China, it sought only the preservation of equal opportunity for ordinary trade within the spheres, not the destruction of the spheres themselves. Equal investment opportunity was not demanded. Although the Open Door Notes did not formally recognize the spheres, Secretary of State John Hay accepted the spheres as existing facts. When Russia militarily occupied Manchuria in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion and then proceeded to demand extensive rights there, the United States was willing to recognize the exceptional position of Russia in Manchuria if Russia would permit equality of opportunity for trade. When in 1905, at the conclusion of the Russo-Japanese War, Japan secured all the Russian rights and concessions in southern Manchuria, it did so with the full blessing of the U.S. government. President Theodore Roosevelt even indicated to China that it could not question the transfer to Japan of either the Port Arthur leasehold or the part of the Chinese Eastern Railway that was in southern Manchuria.

There were, however, limits to the accepting attitude of the Roosevelt administration. When in 1908 Russia attempted to take over the administration of Harbin on the ground that it was part of the railway zone, Secretary of State Elihu Root resisted vigorously. His opposition was motivated by the desire not only to restrain Russia in its northern Manchurian sphere but also to forestall Japan from making a similar interpretation of its railway zone rights in southern Manchuria. U.S. policy in the Harbin dispute indicates clearly that the Roosevelt administration did not give either Russia or Japan a free hand in their respective spheres.

The administration of William Howard Taft, redefining the Open Door policy to include the demand for equal investment opportunity, launched a full-scale attack on the spheres of influence in Manchuria. Secretary of State Philander Knox came forward with a plan to have the major powers loan China money to purchase the Russian railway line (the Chinese Eastern Railway) and the Japanese railway (later known as the South Manchurian Railway). He also proposed, as an alternate plan, the construction of a new line from Chin-chow (Jinzhou) to Aigun that would parallel and compete with the Japanese line. Neither of these schemes was implemented because of lack of support from the other interested powers, including Britain. The principal result of the Knox program was to drive Russia and Japan closer together. In 1907 they had signed a secret treaty recognizing each other's spheres in Manchuria; and in 1910 they signed another accord, this time agreeing to support each other in the further development of their spheres. Meanwhile, the spheres were softening in China south of the Great Wall. In 1909, Germany, Britain, and France agreed to share in a project for a railway line stretching from Canton to Hankow and then westward to Chungking (Chongqing). The following year the United States was admitted to the project and the Four-Power Consortium was formed by the United States, Britain, France, and Germany for the purpose of sharing Chinese railway concessions.

The outbreak of World War I significantly changed the power relationships in the Far East. Whereas the Taft administration had waged an offensive campaign against the spheres in Manchuria, the administration of Woodrow Wilson was forced into a defensive position. In the first months of the war, Japan seized the German sphere in Shantung. This was followed in January 1915 by the presentation to China of the Twenty-one Demands, which included assent to the transfer of German rights in Shantung and a great increase in Japan's rights in southern Manchuria. Japan also demanded rights in eastern Inner Mongolia that would make that area a Japanese sphere. Wilson, Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, and Robert Lansing attempted, by making concessions to Japan, to influence it to observe restraint. In doing so they made some remarkable statements relating to the Japanese spheres. In a note to Japan drafted by Lansing and sent over Bryan's signature, the United States recognized that territorial contiguity created "special relations" between Japan and the districts of southern Manchuria, eastern Mongolia, and Shantung.

The attempt to restrain Japan was only partly successful. The Japanese settled for considerably less than they had sought in the Twenty-one Demands, but this was probably due more to British than to U.S. influence. In 1917, Lansing, now secretary of state, made another attempt to restrain the Japanese. In doing so, he concluded an exchange of notes with a special Japanese envoy, Kikujiro Ishii, that contained an even more sweeping recognition of Japan's special interests than had been given in 1915. It stated that territorial propinquity gave Japan "special interests" in China, particularly in that part of China contiguous to Japanese possessions. In return for this extraordinary statement, Lansing obtained a secret protocol in which the United States and Japan agreed not to take advantage of conditions in China to seek special rights that would abridge the rights of other friendly states. Again, the endeavor to bridle the Japanese met with only limited success. At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, Japan won approval for the transfer of the German rights in Shantung, a gain that was softened only by Japan's informal agreement to give up the navy base at Kiaochow.

Many of the goals that the Wilson administration sought in East Asia were finally achieved by the administration of Warren G. Harding at the Washington Conference of 19211922. By the Nine-Power Treaty of 6 February 1922, Japan and the other signatories pledged to refrain from seeking new rights in China that would create new spheres of influence or enhance rights in existing spheres. Furthermore, in bilateral negotiations with China during the Washington Conference, Japan gave up all the former German rights in Shantung, retaining only a mortgage on the Tsing-tao-to-Tsinan railway line that was sold to China. Later in 1922, Japan agreed to the abrogation of the Lansing-Ishii exchange of notes. Existing historical accounts do not fully explain why Japan pursued such a moderate policy at the Washington Conference. It was in any case a moderation that ended with the seizure of Manchuria in 19311933. In 1937 came full-scale war with China, and by the end of 1938, Japan was claiming all of East Asia as its sphere.

Japan's application of the sphere of influence concept to an entire region of the world was not wholly new. The Western Hemisphere had often been referred to as being in the United States sphere as a result of the Monroe Doctrine. In 1940 the sphere concept received another regional application. The Tripartite Pact among Germany, Italy, and Japan in that year, though not specifically using the term "sphere of influence," in essence recognized East Asia as a Japanese sphere and Europe as a German and Italian sphere.


Following World War II, Eastern Europe became a Russian sphere. This was foreshadowed by wartime agreements on spheres that resembled the traditional type. In May 1944, Britain sought U.S. approval for a trade-off giving the Soviet Union a controlling influence in Romania and giving Britain a controlling influence in Greece. Secretary of State Cordell Hull flatly opposed the scheme, fearing that it would lead to a division of Europe into spheres of influence. As he later wrote: "I was not, and am not, a believer in the idea of balance of power or spheres of influence as a means of keeping the peace." Despite Hull's opposition, when the secretary of state went out of town for a few days in June 1944, Roosevelt gave his assent to the arrangement on a three-month trial basis, with the understanding that it was only a wartime agreement. Later, Hull felt that his apprehensions were justified when Churchill and Stalin reached an informal accord in October 1944 giving the Soviets 90 percent predominance in Romania and 75 percent predominance in Bulgaria, Britain a 90 percent predominance in Greece, and specifying an equal sharing of influence in Yugoslavia and Hungary.

Actually, it was Russian power, not wartime agreements, that made Eastern Europe a Russian sphere of influence consisting of satellite states.

Hull's concept of a world without spheres of influencea world with a broad and effective system of general securitywas not to be. The realities of power continued to operate.


Following World War II, the United States under-took by treaty responsibility for the defense of a number of countries in the Pacific: the Philippines in 1946 (revised in 1951), Japan in 1951, South Korea in 1953, and Taiwan in 1954. The relationships between the United States and these entities were so different in character from the prewar concept of protectorates that it would probably produce more confusion than clarity to use the term "protectorate" in these cases. With the exception of Japan, all have substantial armed forces of their own, and U.S. influence on their domestic affairs and even on their foreign relations is limited. The treaties, again with the exception of Japan, have some measure of mutuality in that they provide for assistance in the western Pacific if the forces of either signatory are attacked. The 1951 treaty between the United States and Japan came closest to the old protectorate concept. By its terms the United States could maintain troops in Japan not only to protect that country but also to defend East Asia. United States troops could, at Japanese request, even be used to quash internal disturbances in Japan. When the treaty was revised in 1960, largely one-sided defense provisions were agreed upon. The United States undertook to protect Japan, while Japan undertook to aid the United States only in case of an attack on U.S. forces on Japanese territory. Under this treaty Japan is certainly a protectorate of the United States in a military sense, but to use that word without qualification to describe the relationship between the first-and third-ranking industrial nations of the world is obviously to give a new definition to the term.

A closer parallel to the traditional concept of protectorates can be seen in the case of the islands of the North Pacific. These islands had been acquired by Germany during the heady years of nineteenth-century imperialism. During World War I, in agreement with its ally Britain, Japan seized the German Islands in the Pacific north of the equator: the Marshall Islands, the Caroline Islands, and the Marianas. At the close of the war, the island groups became a League of Nations mandated territory under the administration of Japan. More than two decades later, during World War II, the islands were the scene of some of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific War, including Saipan and Peleliu. Following Japan's surrender in 1945, the islands were made a United Nations trusteeship territory under U.S. administration. Subsequently, in a process spread over several decades, the UN trusteeship status was ended, replaced in three cases by compacts of free association with the United States and in one case a commonwealth covenant with the United States. In all cases, the United States undertook the responsibility for armed defense and retained a role in the foreign relations of the new entities, at least as related to defense.

It was the relationship between the United States and the Marshall Islands that was the most controversial case. During the trusteeship period, these islands, situated more than two thousand miles southwest of Hawaii, became a testing site for U.S. nuclear weapons. A total of sixty-six nuclear tests were carried out on Bikini (19461958) and Enewetak (19481958). The operations were conducted with scant consideration for the health and welfare of the islanders. It was not until 1986 that the United States agreed to set up a fund of $150 million to settle claims for compensation. The first payments did not begin until 1992, by which time many suffering from radiation sickness had died.

A compact of free association for the Marshall Islands was drafted in 1982. By that time the United States had overseen the setting up of a locally elected government. The compact provided that the Marshall Islands would constitute a new international entity capable of conducting foreign relations and entering into treaties. The United States, however, was given full authority and responsibility for security and defense, and in recognition of that, the government of the Marshall Islands was obligated to consult with the United States in the conduct of its foreign affairs. The United States agreed to a number of funding arrangements, the largest of which was an annual rent of $170 million for the use of Kwajalein as a missile-testing range. The compact was approved by the islanders in a referendum in 1983. It went into effect in 1986.

It was not until 1990 that the United Nations formally ended the trusteeship status of the Marshall Islands and the other island groups. In 1986, when the Marshall Islands gained free association status, the United States secured a majority vote in the UN Trusteeship Council to end the Pacific islands trusteeships, but the council lacked the authority to make such a change. From the outset of those trusteeships, they had been designated "strategic," and under Articles 82 and 83 of the United Nations Charter, decisions concerning such trusteeship were to be exercised by the United Nations Security Council. In the Security Council, the Soviet representatives threatened a veto. It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union that the Russians relented. In December 1990, Russia and all other members of the Security Council except Cuba voted to formally end the trusteeship status of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Northern Marianas.

The Federated States of Micronesia (formerly the eastern Caroline Islands) took the same path to free association as the Marshall Islands. The federation was made up of four states: Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk, and Yap. Situated to the west of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States stretched eighteen hundred miles from east to west. Chuuk (formerly Truk) had been the Japanese Imperial Fleet's most important central Pacific base during the Pacific War. Today, some sixty Japanese warships lie at the bottom of Chuuk Lagoon. Despite this heritage of war, in the postwar years the United States showed little interest in maintaining a military or naval presence in the Federated States.

The compact of free association that was concluded between the Federated States and the United States was identical with that which applied to the Marshall Islands. In fact, the two compacts were included in a single document. As with the Marshall Islands, it obligated the United States to protect the Federated States of Micronesia, and it gave the United States a consultative role in the foreign affairs of the federated government. The compact went into effect in 1986, although, as noted, the UN did not formally approve the termination of the trusteeship until 1990.

Palau (formerly the Western Caroline Islands), which are directly to the west of the Federated States, agreed to a compact of free association with the United States in 1982, but its coming into force was long delayed. In setting up an elected Palau government in the 1970s, a provision was included in the constitution outlawing the transit and storage of nuclear materials. The United States had no plans to make Palau a nuclear base, but it did not wish to agree to such a restriction when it was accepting the responsibility to protect Palau. A change in the constitution required passage by a 75 percent vote of the electorate, so it was assumed that the compact (which invalidated the restriction) would require a like majority. Over the period of a decade (19831992), seven referenda on the compact were conducted; each time the favorable vote was substantially more than a simple majority but short of the 75 percent mark. Finally, in 1992, a referendum approved a process for adoption of the compact that required only a simple majority vote. The following year the compact was approved by a 68 percent vote of the electorate, and it went into effect in 1994.

The Palauan compact of free association gave the United States exclusive military access to Palau's waters and the right to operate two military bases. As in the case of the other compacts, various financial payments agreed to by the United States meant the continuing financial dependence of Palau upon its former trusteeship overlord.

The people of the Northern Marianas did not opt for a compact of free association, choosing instead a closer relationship with the United States. The Northern Marianas included all the Marianas except Guam, a U.S. territory at the southern end of the island chain. In 1975 the people of the northern area, by a majority of more than 78 percent, approved what was called commonwealth status. Similar to the protectorates of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the commonwealth covenant gave the United States "complete responsibility for and authority with respect to matters relating to foreign affairs and defense affecting the Northern Mariana Islands." The covenant gave the United States fifty-year leases on three military bases, the largest base being on the island of Tinian.

Implementation of the commonwealth status was long delayed due to apprehension that the Soviet Union would block the termination of the UN trusteeship status. Finally, in 1986, without waiting for UN approval, the commonwealth covenant was instituted. When the Russians ended their resistance to the termination of the Pacific trusteeships in 1991, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas was formally freed from UN control along with the island groups that chose free association.


Beers, Burton Floyd. Vain Endeavor: Robert Lansing's Attempts to End the American-Japanese Rivalry. Durham, N.C., 1962. The best treatment of Lansing's policy regarding the Japanese spheres in China.

Bemis, Samuel Flagg. The Latin American Policy of the United States. New York, 1943. A good general survey.

Buckley, Thomas H. The United States and the Washington Conference, 19211922. Knoxville, Tenn., 1970. Contains an excellent chapter on the Nine-Power Treaty relating to spheres of influence in China.

Calder, Bruce J. The Impact of Intervention: The Dominican Republic During the U.S. Occupation of 19161924. Austin, Tex., 1984. Asserts that U.S. intervention did not emanate from largely economic motives but from strategic considerations.

Challener, Richard D. Admirals, Generals, and American Foreign Policy, 18981914. Princeton, N.J., 1973. Gives extensive coverage of the military aspects of the protectorate policy.

Esthus, Raymond A. Theodore Roosevelt and Japan. Seattle, 1966. Includes an analysis of the Roosevelt administration's policy toward Japan's sphere in southern Manchuria.

Europa Publications. The Europa World Year Book. London, annual publication.

Fifield, Russell H. Woodrow Wilson and the Far East: The Diplomacy of the Shantung Question. New York, 1952. The standard monograph on the topic.

Griswold, Alfred Whitney. The Far Eastern Policy of the United States. New York, 1938. Old but still useful, particularly for McKinley and Wilson administrations.

Healy, David F. The United States in Cuba, 18981902: Generals, Politicians, and the Search for Policy. Madison, Wis., 1963. Analyzes the development of policy leading to the Platt Amendment.

. Gunboat Diplomacy in the Wilson Era: The U.S. Navy in Haiti, 19151916. Madison, Wis., 1976. A detailed and colorful narrative.

. Drive to Hegemony: The United States in the Caribbean, 18981917. Madison, Wis., 1988. An indictment of many aspects of U.S. policy.

Hunt, Michael H. Frontier Defense and the Open Door: Manchuria in Chinese-American Relations, 18951911. New Haven, Conn., 1973. Based on both Chinese and Western sources.

Kamman, William. A Search for Stability: United States Diplomacy Toward Nicaragua, 19251933. Notre Dame, Ind., 1968. An excellent monograph.

LaFeber, Walter. The Panama Canal: The Crisis in Historical Perspective. New York, 1989. An updated edition of the author's study published in 1978; a comprehensive history.

Langer, William Leonard. The Diplomacy of Imperialism, 18901902. 2d ed. New York, 1951. The most exhaustive treatment of the acquisition of spheres of influence in China.

Langley, Lester D. The United States and the Caribbean, 19001970. Athens, Ga., 1980. Contains much information on the Caribbean protectorates of the United States.

. The Banana Wars: An Inner History of American Empire, 19001934. Lexington, Ky., 1983. Covers U.S. military and financial interventions in Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.

Major, John. Prize Possession: The United States and the Panama Canal, 19031979. Cambridge and New York, 1993. Critical of U.S. paternalism toward Panama.

Miner, Dwight Carroll. The Fight for the Panama Route: The Story of the Spooner Act and the Hay-Herrán Treaty. New York, 1940. An excellent account of the acquisition of the Canal Zone and the Panama protectorate.

Monger, George W. The End of Isolation: British Foreign Policy, 19001907. London, 1963. Excellent study from the British records that includes analyses of the treaties of 1904 and 1907 relating to spheres in Egypt, Morocco, Afghanistan, and Persia.

Munro, Dana G. Intervention and Dollar Diplomacy in the Caribbean, 19001921. Princeton, N.J., 1964. The most detailed study of the diplomatic aspects of U.S. protectorates policy.

Plummer, Brenda Gayle. Haiti and the Great Powers, 19021915. Baton Rouge, 1988. Recounts Haiti's relations with the Germans, French, British, and North Americans.

Price, Ernest B. The Russo-Japanese Treaties of 19071916 Concerning Manchuria and Mongolia. Baltimore, 1933. The standard work.

Schmidt, Hans. The United States Occupation with Haiti, 19151934. New Brunswick, N.J., 1971. Stresses the cultural impact of American influence.

Scholes, Walter V., and Marie V. Scholes. The Foreign Policies of the Taft Administration. Columbia, Mo., 1970. The best account of the beginnings of intervention in Nicaragua.

See also Consortia; Dollar Diplomacy; Extraterritoriality; Imperialism; Intervention and Nonintervention; Mandates and Trusteeships; Open Door Policy .