CAIRO – 9 February 2022: The Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) was fought between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan, due to the competing ambitions of the two countries in Manchuria and Korea. It began on February 8, 1904.
Russia sought to establish a warm seaport on the Pacific Ocean for its naval forces and maritime trade. Vladivostok operated only during the summer, while Port Arthur, a naval base in Liodong Province that China leased to Russia, operated all year.
Since the end of the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, Japan has feared that Russia would violate its plans to create a sphere of influence in Korea and Manchuria. Russia demonstrated an expansionist policy in the Siberian Far East after the reign of Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century.
Japan offered to recognize the Russian hegemony in Manchuria, because it saw Russia as a rival, in return for recognizing Korea as being within the Japanese sphere of influence. Russia refused and demanded that North Korea be 39 degrees north of the equator, a neutral buffer zone between Russia and Japan.
The Japanese government realized the Russian threat to its plans to expand into Asia and chose war. After negotiations broke down in 1904, the Japanese Navy began fighting by attacking the Russian Eastern Fleet at Port Arthur, China, in a surprise attack.
Russia suffered several defeats from Japan, but Tsar Nicholas II was convinced that Russia would win and chose to continue the war at first to await the results of certain naval battles, and later to preserve Russia's dignity by avoiding a "humiliating peace".
Moreover, Russia ignored Japan's early willingness to agree to an armistice, and rejected the idea of referring the dispute to the Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The war ended with the Treaty of Portsmouth, brokered by US President Theodore Roosevelt.
The complete victory of the Japanese military establishment came as a surprise to the world, and as a result shifted the trends of the balance of power in East Asia, which led to a reassessment of Japan's recent entry into the world arena.
It was the first major military victory of the modern era for an Asian power over a European power.