The rise of Japan has been greeted by countries around the world with a mixture of surprise and wariness. Western powers in particular, perceived the rise of Japan as a regional threat to their interest in the far East. The document, a letter written by President Roosevelt to Senator Knox regarding the relations between the United States (US) and Japan in 1909 is a reflection of the wariness of Western powers to the rise of Japan. Furthermore, the letter also shows an important passage in the social history of the US, specifically the racial discourse present. This essay aims to examine the reasons behind the way US viewed Japan in such a light, considering them a major threat as well as the impact on Japan, by referring to the document as well as other sources.
The US felt that Japan was a threat due to its “formidable military power”, as exhibited through its victory over Russia in the Russo-Japanese War from 1904 to 1905, as mentioned in the document.1 The Russo-Japanese War was brought about mainly by the rivalry and tension between Russia and Japan with regards to imperialism and control over Korea and to a smaller extent, Manchuria. “Japan’s victory sent shockwaves around the international community as it was the first time that a European power had been defeated by an Asian power in the modern era”.2 Thus, the US considered Japan a threat due to its strong military force, which led it to victory in the war against Russia.
Another reason that the US viewed Japan in such a negative light was that it considered Japan hostile. When Japan won, the global reputation of Japan changed. Many Asian countries and leaders were amazed and felt proud of Japan’s victory. India’s Nehru, upon welcoming Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke in 1957, mentioned that “the Japan that stopped the European invasion into Asia looked as an Asian hero in my eyes. Then Japan stood as an icon of Asia’s firm determination to stand against the European powers.”3 Various publications...
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