The Anglo-Japanese Alliance, 1902-22

By Phillips Payson O'Brien | Go to book overview

7

Navalism, naval expansion and war

The Anglo-Japanese Alliance and the Japanese Navy

J. Charles Schencking

In December 1902, a storm brewed in Japan's national parliament, the Diet. At issue was naval expansion. A parliamentary wrangle over naval appropriation was nothing new for Japan. Throughout the early sessions of parliament but particularly the Second Session of Parliament (November 1891 to December 1891), the Third Session of Parliament (May to June 1892), and the Fourth Session of Parliament (November 1892 to March 1893), naval expansion and how to pay for it were the issues of contention. 1 Ten years later, parliamentarians again argued over how to finance the navy's request, coming on the heels of 213 million yen worth of naval expansion carried out between 1896 and 1902. 2 But parliamentarians and press reporters who witnessed the 1902 debate heard one new phrase that had not entered the earlier budgetary struggle: Nichi-Ei dômei (the Anglo-Japanese Alliance). 3 From one side came a staunch attack against Prime Minister Katsura Tarô's naval request by Sugita Tei'ichi. Sugita, a skilled orator, challenged the naval increases on the grounds that the newly signed Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902 afforded Japan an opportunity to slow the pace of naval expansion. 4 Sugita was not alone in holding this position. Hara Kei, a pragmatic politician who would come to hold significant and unmatched power in the Seiyûkai, also shared Sugita's opinion, at least initially. 5 At a 10 December Budget Committee Meeting, Sugita argued that Britain was now bound to support Japan if attacked by a combination of two or more powers, thus reducing the urgency for Japan's navy to match a combined threat from Russia and either Germany or France. Was the Anglo-Japanese Alliance not in place to make up for naval deficiencies of each power? Later in the session, on 16 December, speaking before the full Lower House, other Diet members such as Shimada Saburô and Ozaki Yukio challenged the plan on more practical budgetary grounds. Others, however, saw the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and its relation to the armaments debate in another light. Pro-navy parliamentarian Inoue Kakugorô, who would later be President of the Muroran Steel Works, argued that the Alliance now necessitated that Japan expand its navy to hold up its part of the Alliance. 6

Though the bedrock of Japan's foreign relations in the first decade of the twentieth century and an alliance that would give the Japanese navy many

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