1902 Anglo-Japanese Treaty


On January 30th,1902, Japan and Great Britain signed a treaty of military alliance. The treaty provisions stated that if either country was attacked by another country, the co-signatory would maintain benevolent neutrality. If it was attacked by two or more countries, the co-signatory was committed to go to war on behalf of the ally. The agreement was aimed primarily at Russian expansion. The Japanese and the British felt threatened by the Russian seizure of Manchuria and Russia's claims to the Korean peninsula.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Russia embarked on a campaign of territorial expansion in East Asia, which alarmed both Japan and Great Britain. The Russian seizure of Manchuria and their ambitions in the Korean peninsula posed a direct threat to Japanese interests, as Japan viewed Korea as a crucial buffer zone against foreign invasion. At the same time, Britain was concerned about the security of its colonial possessions and trade routes in the region, particularly with regard to India and China.

In this context, the Japanese and British governments recognized the mutual benefits of a military alliance. By joining forces, they could present a united front against Russian expansionism, thus safeguarding their respective interests and preserving the balance of power in East Asia.

Provisions of the Treaty

The Anglo-Japanese Alliance contained several key provisions that outlined the obligations and responsibilities of both signatories. The central tenet of the treaty was the commitment to mutual assistance in case of attack:

  1. If either Japan or Great Britain was attacked by another country, the other signatory would maintain benevolent neutrality, meaning they would not actively participate in the conflict but would support their ally diplomatically and economically.
  2. If either Japan or Great Britain was attacked by two or more countries, the other signatory was committed to go to war on behalf of their ally, providing military assistance as necessary.

These provisions were designed to deter potential adversaries from attacking either Japan or Great Britain, as they would face the combined might of both nations in response. The treaty also stipulated that it would remain in effect for five years, with the possibility of renewal or modification.

Implications of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance

The signing of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance had far-reaching consequences for the international relations of the early 20th century. It marked the first formal alliance between an Asian and a European power, signaling Japan's emergence as a major player on the world stage. The treaty also strengthened Japan's position in East Asia, as it now had the backing of a major Western power in its efforts to counter Russian influence.

For Great Britain, the alliance represented a significant departure from its traditional policy of "splendid isolation," in which it had generally avoided entangling alliances with other nations. The treaty with Japan demonstrated Britain's willingness to adapt its foreign policy to the changing geopolitical landscape, acknowledging the growing importance of East Asia in global affairs.

The Anglo-Japanese Alliance also had implications for the broader balance of power in East Asia. It contributed to the containment of Russian expansion, as Russia was now faced with the prospect of confronting both Japan and Great Britain if it pursued further territorial ambitions in the region. This ultimately led to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, during which Japan emerged victorious, thereby solidifying its status as a major power in East Asia.