29 February 2004

Japan and the War, 1915

Japan and the War - From the time Japan entered the World-war last summer, down to to-day, she appears to have acted scrupulously and considerately in all her dealings with friend and foe alike.

Sympathy with Germany - The true attitude of Japan to the war has been little known and perhaps less understood, and we must wait for the close of the war before all that can be said to her credit shall be made public. There were many considerations which would naturally have strongly influenced Japan to maintain either a neutral position in the war, or to become an ally of Germany. Japan's large trade with Germany, the fact that many of her doctors and other professional men have been educated in Germany and hence are strongly German in their sympathies, and the very important fact that Japan's military organization is copied after Germany and many of the military leaders have been trained in Germany--all combined to produce a very strong sympathy with that nation.

Japan's Share in War - It was no easy task which Count Okuma faced in leading the nation unitedly to support its ally, England, and to engage early in the attack upon Kiaochau and the successful conquest of that port. It is not difficult to imagine how different would have been the condition of the great port cities of the Far East, Hongkong, Shanghai, Tientsin, and others, had Japan pursued a different policy and failed to render useless for German military purposes the port of Kiaochau, with its splendid base for the German navy. Her effective patrol of the Pacific guaranteed safety and security to ports and shipping of all nations, which the British navy was entirely unable to provide. The career of the Emden furnishes a suggestion of what might have occurred very generally throughout the Eastern waters, had Japan been less efficient in protecting the world's shipping.

Kiaochou and Belgium - Her treatment of Kiaochou stands out in strong contrast with Germany's treatment of Belgium, and her treatment of the German prisoners interned in Japan is greatly to her credit, when we bear in mind the indignities reported as borne by Japanese at the same time in Germany, and its natural effect upon the public mind.

Troops to Europe - The Government did not approve of the project favoured in some parts of Europe, and desired by some in Japan, of sending troops to the European war. It was ready however and willing to send Red Cross nurses and to give such other practical assistance as it could.

Support of Russia - Perhaps in no way could Japan have offered a more practical support to her ally, or have given stronger evidence of her actual sympathy, than in her voluntary assurance to her recent enemy, Russia, that she was free to withdraw all her troops from Eastern Siberia, if needed for the war, without any fear of advantage being taken of it by Japan.

Japan in South Seas - The energy which Japan showed in wresting from the Germans their Island possessions in the South Pacific is further evidence of the valuable support which she is giving to her allies. Japan well knows that in doing all this she is making of Germany an implacable enemy, and is sacrificing a relationship of great possibility, both commercially and politically.

Had the designs of Japan upon China been as selfish and inconsiderate as many are inclined to suppose, it is difficult to understand why she did not, at the outset of the war, throw her lot with Germany, whose chances of success, at least at that time, gave promise of being far greater than they appeared later on, and whose support would have been most valuable if Japan had designs regarding Chinese territory and wished to appropriate a part of that country to herself.

Relations with America - As a result of the restless activity of Jingoists on both sides of the Pacific, it is not too much to say that at times during the past year conditions have been exceedingly sensitive and gave rise to no little anxiety as to what might follow. The attitude of the two governments toward each other has at no time been such as to occasion deep concern, but the continuous and unabating sensational reports and cablegrams which have been sent back and forth have occasioned much unrest, and there has been at times fear what thoughtless persons might be led to do under the circumstances. One must carefully consider what might follow if some reckless and hotheaded youth should lead in an assault upon the American Embassy in Tokyo, plunging his country into serious international difficulties....

Relations with China - The developments of the past year have revealed an attitude of China towards Japan, and of Japan towards China, which is the ground of great discussion and difference of opinion. It is plain to see that there is apparently a fear of Japan on the part of China, and a misunderstanding of Japan on the part of foreigners dwelling in China, which must cause Japan in any case great uneasiness.

Distrust of Japan - It is difficult to understand why China should prefer to have her territory under German influence rather than under Japanese influence, but so it would seem. Why Englishmen in China should distrust a country which has already done them such good service, as Japan has done to the foreigners in China since the war began, it is hard to explain; but if the foreign press is to be believed, and if reports which come to Japan are to be given any credit, there is certainly at present a most antagonistic feeling toward Japan on the part of very many.
SOURCE: "General Survey," by John Lincoln Dearing, in The Christian Movement in the Japanese Empire, including Korea and Formosa, a Year Book for 1915 (Conference of Federated Missions, Japan, 1915), pp. 7-11.

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