Anglo-Japanese Alliance - Demise of The Treaty

Demise of The Treaty

The alliance was viewed as an obstacle already at the Paris peace conference of 1919-1920. On July 8, 1920, the two governments issued a joint statement to the effect that the alliance treaty "is not entirely consistent with the letter of that Covenant (of the League of Nations), which both Governments earnestly desire to respect".

The demise of the alliance was signaled by the 1921 Imperial Conference, in which leaders from throughout the British Commonwealth convened to determine a unified international policy. One of the major issues of the conference was the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. The conference began with all but Canadian Prime Minister Arthur Meighen supporting the immediate renewal of an alliance with Japan. The prevailing hope was for a continuance of the alliance with the Pacific power, which could potentially provide security for Commonwealth interests in the area. The Australians feared that it could not fend off any advancements from the Japanese navy, and desired a continuance to build up naval resources for a possible future conflict with the fear that an alliance with the United States in a state of post-war isolationism would provide little protection.

Meighen, fearing that a conflict could develop between Japan and the United States, demanded the Commonwealth to remove itself from the treaty to avoid being forced into a war between the two nations. The rest of the delegates agreed that it was best to court America and try to find a solution that the American government would find suitable, but only Meighen called for the complete abrogation of the treaty. The American government feared that the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance would create a Japanese dominated market in the Pacific, and close China off from American trade. These fears were elevated by the news media in America and Canada, which reported alleged secret anti-American clauses in the treaty, and advised the public to support abrogation.

The press, combined with Meighen's convincing argument of Canadian fears that Japan would attack Commonwealth assets in China, caused the Imperial Conference to shelve the alliance. The Conference communicated their desire to consider leaving the alliance to the League of Nations, which stated that the alliance would continue, as originally stated with the leaving party giving the other a twelve month notice of their intentions.

The Commonwealth had decided to sacrifice its alliance with Japan in favor of good will with the United States, yet it desired to prevent the expected alliance between Japan and either Germany or Russia from coming into being. Commonwealth delegates convinced America to invite several nations to Washington to participate in talks regarding Pacific and Far East policies, specifically naval disarmament. Japan came to the Washington Naval Conference with a deep mistrust of Britain, feeling that London no longer wanted what was best for Japan.

Despite the growing rift, Japan joined the conference in hopes of avoiding a war with the United States. The Pacific powers of the United States, Japan, France, and Great Britain would sign the Four-Power Treaty, and adding on various other countries such as China to create the Nine-Power Treaty. The Four Powers Treaty would provide a minimal structure for the expectations of international relations in the Pacific, as well as a loose alliance without any commitment to armed alliances. The Four Powers Treaty at the Washington Conference made the Anglo-Japanese Alliance defunct in December, 1921; however, it would not officially terminate until all parties ratified the treaty on August 17, 1923.

At that time, the Alliance was officially terminated, as per Article IV in the Anglo-Japanese Alliance Treaties of 1902 and 1911. The distrust between the Commonwealth and Japan, as well as the manner in which the Anglo-Japanese Alliance concluded are credited by many scholars, as being leading causes to Japan's involvement in World War Two.

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