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cannot be denied that their presence in the treaties reflected correctly the disposition of the United States in the Far East to seek peace and to maintain the most impartial neutrality. Nevertheless, because of the chronic political instability of international relations in Eastern Asia, and because of the ulterior motives which had led to the insertion of the clauses in the treaties, these provisions were a constant menace to traditional American policy in foreign affairs, and unless rigidly interpreted by the United States could not have failed to draw the American government into armed intervention in Asia. In none of the cases already considered where the good offices of the United States were invoked does this appear but it becomes very evident when we come to the case of Korea. A few facts as to the situation will make this clear.
After 1872, it was inevitable that some day China and Japan would come into armed conflict over the possession of Korea. Indeed, the treaties of the western powers with Korea had been made upon the advice of Li Hung Chang, for the express purpose of enlisting the western powers on the side of China in its efforts to prevent Korea from being separated from China by Japan.
At least by 1885, it became evident that China and Japan were not to be permitted to settle the question of Korea without the intervention of European powers. Russia, also, wanted Korea, and the ambitions of Russia drew Great Britain into the situation. Furthermore, the general policy of the European powers before 1900, and this applied also to England before 1894, was to repress the growing strength of Japan. It is a safe generalization that all the powers, except the United States, preferred a weak Asia. This consideration led to a disposition to thwart the efforts of Japan to acquire a defensible foothold in Korea. England was disposed to see Korea remain under Chinese suzerainty. Russia sought to transfer the suzerainty over Korea from China to herself, and the attitude of Europe generally is reflected in the demand for the retrocession of the Liao-tung peninsular to China in 1895.
The American policy was quite different. It was based on the desire to see the development of a strong Asia. While the independence of all of the Asiatic states, including Korea, seemed desirable, this desire was quite subordinate, in American policy, to the growth of indigenous strength in Asia as a whole sufficient to withstand the aggressions of the foreign powers. The American treaty with Korea assumed the independence of Korea. American policy, however, went farther than that. Its effect was to separate Korea entirely from its traditional relationship to China. It would appear that the American government perceived that the shadowy and obstructive suzerainty of China over Korea would never be a source of strength to China, and would, on the other hand, be an element of weakness not only to Korea, but also to Asia as a whole. Consequently, when the question of intervention with a view to establishing the absolute independence of Korea arose, the Government of the United States found that a strict construction of its treaty obligations to China, Korea and Japan, coincided exactly with its major policy in Asiatic affairs. In the first place, the United States was friendly with all three states. It was pledged to use its good offices but these could be effective only if they were acceptable to both parties. It was therefore the duty of the United States to maintain the most scrupulous neutrality. In the second place, intervention with a view to diverting the natural course of events, appeared to be merely playing into the hands of European powers, which desired to repress Japan and also to weaken Korea with a view to the sequestration of Korean territory at some future date. To have followed this second course would have meant not only the repudiation of the friendship which had existed so long with Japan as well as with China and Korea, but it would also have meant continued armed intervention in Asia, in co-operation with European powers, and yet for the express purpose of thwarting European ulterior designs. In effect, such a course would have led to the abandonment of the traditional American policy at many points.
With these choices in mind, let us examine the course of the United States in the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-5.
Early in 1894, the Korean Tonghaks raised the standard of insurrection. While generally anti-foreign in purpose, the Tonghaks were particularly anti-Japanese. Yuan Shi Kai, as the representative of Li Hung Chang and of the Chinese Government, immediately assumed responsibility for the protection of foreigners, and it became evident that the insurrection would assume the larger aspects of a contest between China and Japan for the control of Korea. On June 22, 1894, the American Minister in Seoul was instructed:
In view of the friendly interests of the United States in the welfare of Korea and its people, you are, by direction of the President, instructed to use every possible effort for the preservation of peaceful conditions.38
The Koreans, caught between the mill-stones, and quite powerless to act effectively for peace, appealed to Russia, France, England and the United States for help, and Mr. Sill, the American Minister, joined with the representatives of the other powers in asking China and Japan to agree to a simultaneous withdrawal of their troops from Korean soil. Both China and Japan refused.39 On July 5th, the Korean representative in Washington asked that the President "adjust the difficulty" arising out of the fact that the Japanese Minister in Seoul had presented to the Korean King a long list of administrative reforms and was pressing that they be immediately adopted.40 At about the same time the Chinese Government at Peking sought the good offices of England and Russia to secure
Foreign Relations, 1894, Vol. 2, p. 22. *»Tbid.
*oIbid., p. 29.
a peaceful solution. The British Minister in Peking urged, through Charles Denby, Jr., American Charge, that the United States take the initiative in uniting the great powers in a joint protest at Tokio against the beginning of hostilities in Korea by Japan. On July 8th, Denby wired that Li Hung Chang had officially expressed the desire that the United States take the initiative as the British Minister had suggested.41
A study of these requests in the light of the history of the preceding twenty years shows their intention to have been as follows: the United States was asked, both by Korea and by China, to take the lead in preventing Japan from enforcing administrative reforms on Korea. That reform in Korea was desirable was undeniable; that China would ever effect these reforms was unlikely; that the European powers were being moved by any sincere desire to rescue Korea from the clutches of Japan for the purpose of creating in the peninsula a strong, independent Asiatic state, was equally improbable. The joint note of the foreign representatives in Seoul had failed to secure the simultaneous withdrawal of the Chinese and Japanese troops. It was evident that any intervention in the affair involved forceful intervention. Furthermore, the forceful intervention desired by Korea, by China, by Russia, by Germany, by England, was to eliminate Japanese influence in Korea for the express purpose of obstructing reform, and for the ulterior purpose on the part of some of the powers, of weakening the resistance of Asia, at the key-stone of the arch, to the aggression of Europe. In this situation the position of the United States was clear. The treaties demanded the offer of good offices. Good offices were offered and rejected. The invitation of the foreign powers to the United States was to assist them in support of a policy which would weaken rather than strengthen Asia. This was contrary to American policy.
Japan refused to heed the protest of the United States as well as those of England and Russia. On July 9th, Secretary of State Gresham told the Korean Envoy in Washington that the United States would not intervene forcibly, that the American government would not intervene jointly with the European powers, that it would maintain "impartial neutrality," but that it would seek to influence Japan in a "friendly way."42 Mr. Gresham expressed to the Japanese Minister in Washington the hope that Japan would deal "kindly and fairly with her feeble neighbor."
To China's request for intervention, Gresham replied advising that China offer the whole question for friendly arbitration. The American Secretary of State did not believe that Japan would resort to war. China, on her part, was not prepared to submit the entire question to arbitration. The fundamental point at issue was the validity of Chinese suzerainty over Korea. Space does not permit a discussion of that claim, but it may be asserted that it would have had a most doubtful status before any board
« Foreign Relations, 1894, Vol. 2, p. 30. *2lbid., p. 37.
of arbitration when studied in the light of the various treaties which had been made by Korea beginning with the Japanese treaty in 1876, and also when considered in the light of existing treaties between Japan and China. China had surrendered too much by 1894, and had acquiesced in too much, ever to regain a position of suzerainty over Korea.
On October 6th, the British Charge approached the American government with a proposition for joint intervention by the United States, Germany, France, Russia and Great Britain on the basis of an indemnity to be paid by China to Japan, and the guarantee by the powers of the independence of Korea.48 A month later, China formally invoked the good offices of the United States, citing the treaty of 1858, and asking for joint action with the other foreign powers. Before this invitation from Peking was received, the United States directed Dun in Tokio to inquire whether good offices would be acceptable to Japan, and the same day Gresham carefully defined the position of the United States in a note which clearly explained why the United States had been unwilling to join the European powers in intervention, as follows:
The deplorable war between Japan and China endangers no policy of the United States in Asia. Our attitude towards the belligerents is that of an impartial and friendly neutral, desiring the welfare of both. If the struggle continues without check to Japan's military operations on land and sea, it is not improbable that other powers having interests in that quarter may demand a settlement not favorable to Japan's future security and well-being. Cherishing the most friendly sentiments of regard for Japan, the President directs that you ascertain whether the tender of his good offices in the interests of peace alike honorable to both nations would be acceptable to the Government at Tokio.44
In the above friendly warning to Japan, one reads between the lines that Gresham clearly understood the international situation. The proposals which had been made for joint intervention had been by no means disinterested. Every one of them had been directed against Japan with a view to repressing her advancing power and influence in Asia. These proposals had not been, primarily, in the interests of any Asiatic state, but in the interests of European political and commercial ambitions in Korea. Dressed in their best clothes, these proposals looked in the direction of a protectorate in Korea; viewed more cynically, and critically, they looked in the direction of dismemberment not merely of Korea, but also further dismemberment of China, and perhaps of Japan.
Japan, however, disregarded the admonitions of the United States, and, instead of pausing at a point where the good offices of the United States might have been valuable in saving Asia in general from a large increase of European influence, over-reached herself by continuing the war so suc
i3 Foreign Relations, 1894, Vol. 2, p. 70. ** Ibid., pp. 73, 74, 76, 77.
cessfully begun. Japan thus invited the very intervention which Gresham had expected.
The subsequent services of the United States in the actual negotiations leading towards peace need not be detailed. From the beginning of the war the United States had stood in a unique relation to both China and Japan since the American legations in Tokio and in Peking, respectively, had taken charge of the Chinese and Japanese archives. The United States became the natural channel of communications between Peking and Tokio, and a peace conference was brought about by the good offices of the United States."
In summary, one may note the following points: (1) The United States fulfilled its treaty obligations both to Korea and to China in the offer of its good offices, and it was by means of the United States that the conflict was terminated. (2) The United States declined to join with other powers in what looked to be an effort to save Korea, but which actually was a plan to repress Japan with a view to the increase of European advantages on the continent of Asia.
The policy of the United States was as follows: First of all to favor peace between the Asiatic states but, if peace were impossible, to favor the growth of Japanese, rather than of European, influence in Asia.48
The Russo-japanese War And The Annexation Of Korea While the discussion of the Russo-Japanese War and the annexation by Japan does not fall within the limits of this study, and cannot, until more authentic and official documents are available, be studied with precision, so far as they relate to the good offices of the United States promised to Korea under the treaty of 1882, it is not difficult to define the principles and the policy of American action. They may be outlined as follows:
(1) The good offices of the United States could be exercised only with the consent of both parties to the dispute. Without such consent the good «» Charles Denby, China and Her People, Vol. 2, p. 130 ff.
4« China seems to have been prepared as early as 1895 to accept arbitration as a method of settling international disputes. It is believed that at Shimoneseki the Chinese Commissioners submitted to Japan for inclusion in the peace treaty an article drafted as follows: "In order to avoid future conflict or war between China and Japan, it is agreed that should any question arise hereafter as to the interpretation, or execution of the present Treaty of Peace, or as to the negotiation, interpretation, or execution of the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation and the Convention of Frontier Intercourse provided for in Article VI of this treaty, which cannot be adjusted by the usual method of diplomatic conference and correspondence between the two governments, they will submit such questions to the decision of an arbitrator to be designated by some friendly power to be selected by mutual accord of the two governments, or, in case of failure to agree as to the selection of said power, then the President of the United States shall be invited to designate the arbitrator; and both governments agree to accept, abide by and carry out in good faith the decision of said arbitrator." The Japanese declined to accept this article.