The Anglo-Japanese Alliance, 1902-22

By Phillips Payson O'Brien | Go to book overview

8

Japanese naval assistance and its effect on Australian-Japanese relations

Yoichi Hirama

Japan's victory in the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-1895 greatly changed the Australian view of Japan. The military, especially the Royal Australian Navy, started to examine the Imperial Japanese Navy, now emerging as a first rank power in the Far East. A naval exercise was held in 1895 with its object being to defend Sydney from a hypothetical attack by the Japanese Navy. 1 Furthermore, in 1896, being uneasy over the increasing power of Japan, the Australian parliament passed resolutions excluding all coloured races from Australia and urging Australia to abstain from participating in the treaty of Commerce and Navigation signed between Great Britain and Japan in 1894.

In December 1902, the Immigration Restriction Act was passed which virtually prohibited the immigration of coloured peoples by forcing them to pass dictation tests given in European languages, and in the same year a 'White Australian' policy became an explicit part of the platform of the Australian Labour Party. 2 After the annihilation of the Russian Navy in the Russo-Japanese War, Japan began to be Australia and New Zealand's 'real and only dangerous enemy'. 3 Despite this perceived threat to the Commonwealth countries, Britain gave up naval supremacy in the Far East by revising the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, and withdrawing five battleships and six first-class cruisers from the Pacific to secure the balance of power in home waters. 4

Because of this, Australia was forced to depend on Japan's naval forces, even though she had clashed with Japan over racial matters. Nevertheless, 1908 saw the publication of The Australia Crisis by Frank Fox in which he exaggerated fears of the 'Yellow Peril'. 5 At the Imperial conference in 1909, the foundation of the Royal Australian Navy was recognized. In the following year, the Australian Parliament passed the Naval Defence Act. In 1911 the battle cruiser Australia was launched and in 1913 she sailed from England to Australia accompanied by the light cruisers Sydney and Melbourne. 6 The motivation for this strengthening lay in the growth of German naval power, while five months before the outbreak of the war, Winston S. Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, claimed in the British Parliament that 'the navy would defend these regions (Australia and New

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