Then Along Came Perry

I’m finishing off John J. Mearsheimer’s classic, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.

* He quotes a Japanese general on trial for war crimes in 1946: “Haven’t you ever heard of Perry? Tokugawa Japan believed in isolation; it didn’t want to have any thing to do with other countries and had its doors locked tightly. Then along came Perry from your country in 1853 in his black ships to open those doors; he aimed his big guns at Japan and warned, if you don’t deal with us, look out for these; open your doors, and negotiate with other countries, it learned that all those countries were a fearfully aggressive lot. And so for its own defense it took your country as its teacher and set about learning how to be aggressive. You might say we became your disciples. Why don’t you subpoena Perry from the other world and try him as a war criminal?”

* Japan was principally concerned with controlling three areas on the Asian mainland: Korea, Manchuria, and China. Korea was the primary target because it is located a short distance from Japan (see Map 6.1 ). Most Japanese policymakers surely agreed with the German officer who described Korea as “a dagger thrust at the heart of Japan.” 14 Manchuria was number two on Japan’s target list, because it, too, is located just across the Sea of Japan. China was a more distant threat than either Korea or Manchuria, but it was still an important concern, because it had the potential to dominate all of Asia if it ever got its act together and modernized
its economic and political systems. At the very least, Japan wanted
to keep China weak and divided.

Japan was also interested at different times in acquiring territory in Outer Mongolia and Russia. Moreover, Japan sought to conquer large portions of Southeast Asia and, indeed, accomplished that goal in the early years of World War II. Furthermore, Japan had its sights on a number of islands that lie off the Asian continent. They included Formosa (now Taiwan), the Pescadores, Hainan, and the Ryukyus. The story of Japan’s efforts to achieve hegemony in Asia, however, unfolded largely on the Asian continent and involved Korea, Manchuria, and China. Finally, Japan conquered a large number of islands in the western Pacific Ocean when it went to war against Germany in 1914 and the United States in 1941…

In case anyone still had doubts about Japan’s intentions, its foreign ministry issued an important statement on April 18, 1934, proclaiming that East Asia was in Japan’s sphere of influence and warning the other great powers not to help China in its struggle with Japan. In effect, Japan fashioned its own version of the Monroe Doctrine for East Asia.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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