The U.S.-Japan-relation from 1890 until today

Pre-University Paper, 2013

23 Pages, Grade: 1,66



1. USA and Japan: The world’s police against the criminal

2. 1890-1914: The roots of an upcoming tension

3. An alliance in World War I (1914-1918)

4. A worsening relation between the two World Wars (1918-1939)
1. The arms Race and the Washington Fleet Conference (1918-1921)
2. The violation of the Gentlemen's Agreement (1924)
3. Japan crosses over to offensive (1931-1933)
4. The London Fleet Conference and the USS Panay incident in China (1930-1939)...

5. World War II (1939-1945): The highlight of the relation
1. USA on its way to war intervention
2. The Attack on Pearl Harbor (1941) and the Aftereffects
3. The Nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A relation at its deepest point

6. Postwar(1945-1990)
1. The Occupation ofJapan until 1951
2. Reasons and aftereffects of the San Francisco Treaty (1951)
3. The 1960s: The US-Japan-relation among the influence of the Cold War
4. From the 1970s until the 1980s: The decades of increasing economic rivalry
5. The 1990s: The relation after the fall of the Soviet Union

7. The cooperation between Japan and the USA nowadays

1. USA and Japan; The world’s police against the criminal

The relation between the nations USA and Japan during the past 120 years is a topic of particular importance. One reason is the role of the United States as an import and highly influential part of the world: An economic and military superpower. A further cause is the military story between these states whereas not only the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are supposed to be emphasized.

The story and rivalry between the states that can especially be recognized during World War II is mainly due to the fact that the USA is rumored to be a world police. Then- President George W. Bush stressed this role of the United States in his speech in 2006, referred to the Iraq War, as well.1 “Our nation is committed to a historical and long- termed aim: We strive the end of tyranny in our world. [...] The United States will not backtrackfrom the world and never capitulate in theface of the evil”2

This perspective has already been represented by America (United States of America) in the beginnings of the U.S.-Japan-relation. They made themselves out to be the guard of the western world and to spread freedom and democracy. In these days, when Japan got more and more powerful and interfered into World War II by joining the axis powers, America’s role as world police emerged as well. In the rising menace of Japan, they saw the western world as endangered. Consequently, they intended to ‘put the criminal into jail’.3

The following scientific work addresses the U.S.-Japan-relation in depth. Each topic is divided into historical facts at first and the analysis of the relationship in the following. The historical facts are mainly taken from the book: “Die Außenpolitiken der USA, Japans und Deutschlands im wechselseitigen Einfluß von der Mitte des 19. bis Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts“ by Manfred P. Emmes. The relationship analysis bases mainly on my own opinion.

2. 1890-1914; The roots of an upcoming tension

In the USA, the time before World War I was characterized by the second wave of the Industrialization since 1865 until 1914. From that on, the United States were becoming a more and more powerful economic superpower. But not merely inside the country were political improvements. America wanted to expand into the whole world. Before that, the country had already taken advantage of Cuba and the Philippines, but now, the United States had military interests in the pacific area. At this point, Japan comes on.

During the Meiji - Restoration, which had lasted from the beginning towards the end of the 19th century, the aim of the Empire of Japan was to get away from their outdated political system and to modernize its state. Furthermore, Japan wanted to expand its empire. The primary targets of the Japanese Expansionism applied to the east and the west: China and the pacific area. At this point, the interests of the two nations were crossing the first time.

After losing the war against Japan in the Japanese-Chinese war from 1894 to 1895, China illustrated a highly important region for industrial superpowers regarding the economic and military factor. The reason is its geographic location in the heart of Asia which is crucial to rule the Asian market and to have military control in the Asian world. Therefore, Japan and the United States had great interests in that country.

The American claim on pacific islands are based on a growing distrust against the Expansionism of the Empire of Japan. With the pretext of a great number of Japanese people living there, Japan wanted to get Hawaii out of the possession of the United States. The main reason was the military aspect against the USA, of course. However, the United States ignored Japanese claims on Hawaii. From 1869 until 1925, the U.S. got possession of many more pacific islands which were armed to be a shield against the Empire of Japan.4

Because of those territorial claims concerning military and economic interests in Asia and the Pacific, the relationship between the two countries had already been tensed straight before World War I. Nevertheless, during the modernization of the Empire of Japan, the government orientated itself to countries of the western world. Because of that, there was a distinct exchange between the nations. In this regard, Japanese people came to the United States as they were convinced by the country’s position as an economic superpower and its political system. Nevertheless, there was still the distrust of the United States against the Expansionism of Japan which can be seen as a retarding factor of the relationship in those days.5

3. An alliance in World War I (1914-1918)

At first, the United States did not intend to interfere into the war in Europe. Characterized by President James Monroe who hold his famous speech, the “Monroe-Doctrine” in 1823, the USA would never interfere into foreign wars. This American Neutralism had also influence on World War I. But by Germany to kill lots of American Civilians at once, the United States decided to join the Allied Forces and later to send enough troops to Germany that were crucial to win the war.

Japan, on the other side, didn’t play a big role in World War I. They joined the Allied Forces as they didn’t thought Germany to have a chance to win that war. Another reason was their still existing territorial interests in China and the Pacific. After World War I Japan wanted to exploit its position as a member of the Allied Forces to claim German colonies as their own. That means particularly China and pacific islands among German rule. Indeed, those German colonies became property of Japan after World War I.

The relationship of both nations in the time of World War I did not show any improvements. Both countries were situated in an alliance, but it was only formal. There was no considerable cooperation between Japan and America. Nevertheless, one can see an upcoming tension as both states still had economic and military interests in China. Moreover, the American distrust against Japan led to more military consequences on American side. The USA decided to upgrade their military bases in the pacific with more naval and air forces to strengthen their wall to Japan.6

4. A worsening relation between the two World Wars (1918-1939)

1. The arms Race and the Washington Fleet Conference (1918-1921)

Right after World War I, many friction concerned Japan and America resulted in further tension. Although World War I was over, the United States decided to keep their military position in China as the Americans were afraid of the still growing interest and influence of Japan in the Chinese region Manchuria. America wanted to keep that country in order to slow down the Japanese Expansionism.

In addition to a developing racism against Japanese in the United States, the distrust against Japan lead to an arms race in the pacific area in 1918, as America knew about the Japanese interest in the Pacific. In consequence, several actions had been implemented. On the one hand, the USA strengthened its military bases on Hawaii, Guam and the Philippine. On the other hand, it stationed a fleet almost as big as the Japanese one in the Pacific. Because of those steps on American side, Japan felt threatened and began with armament as well.7

The relation of both countries worsened drastically after World War I. The interests of Japan and America in the pacific and Chinese space crossed in many ways, but Japan had always lost out to compared to the U.S. The arms race that was started by the United States strengthened that deterioration of the relationship. The effect was a more growing distrust and tension between both nations.

After several years of a ‘cold war’, the Washington Fleet Conference in 1921 was called up. The participators were the United States, Great Britain, Japan, France and Italy. The aim of that conference was to find a fair relation of the size of the fleet between the countries and the end of the arms race. The solution was a relation of 5 (US): 5 (Great Britain): 3 (Japan): 1,75 (France): 1,75 (Italy) and furthermore the end of the arms race.

The result of the Washington Fleet Conference had a favorable effect on the U.S.-Japan- relation. The agreement achieved the end of the arms race as both parties knew that it was financially impossible. In contrast to the previous development of distrust, Japan was particularly grateful for the high financial support of America after a heavy earthquake in Japan in 1923. Thus one can see a short-termed improvement of the relation between Japan and the United States.8

2. The violation of the Gentlemen’s Agreement (1924)

To achieve a better relation, Japan and the U.S. concluded the Gentlemen’s Agreement in 1907. The USA promised not to forbid Japanese migration to America and Japan, on the other side, did not prohibit its population to immigrate to America anymore. This agreement was violated by America in 1924 because, in their opinion, there had been too many migrants. They counted about 700.000 Japanese migrants in 1924.

After that act, Japan felt deeply insulted because of the violation of their agreement because Japan had always abided by that arrangement. To express their feelings, they invented a ‘Day of Humiliation’ on June 1st 1924. Obviously, the violation of the Gentlemen’s Agreement has led to big disappointment on Japanese side.9

3. Japan crosses overto offensive (1931-1933)

In 1931, Japan exploited the chaos of the Great Depression, beginning in 1929 in America, and occupied Manchuria, the northern part of China. Although Japan was involved in the League of Nations, which was founded in 1920 after World War I to keep peace permanently, sanctions by the USA were rejected because of the Great Depression. The solution was an investigative commission that was sent out to find out the reasons for the occupation of Manchuria. Later, the Japanese steps were condemned by foreign secretary Henry L. Stimson who said that America would not acknowledge Japanese territorial expansions that contradict the ‘Kellogg-Briand Pact’ of 1928. This pact dictated eleven Nations (Japan was not involved) to solve their disputes peacefully. Japan, on the other hand, recognized the “new independence of its self-founded state”10 and left the League ofNations in March 1933.


1 Cf., 2006

2, 2006

3, 2006

4 Cf. Emmes, M. P., 2000, p. 11, 14-15

5 Cf.

6 Cf. Emmes, Manfred P., 2000, p. 110-111

7 Emmes, M. P., 2000, p. 33

8 Cf. Emmes, M. P., 2000, p. 34

9 Cf. Emmes, M. P., 2000, p. 34-35

10 Emmes, M. P., 2000, p. 40

Excerpt out of 23 pages


The U.S.-Japan-relation from 1890 until today
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Länderbeziehungen, Politik, Außenpolitik, Amerika, USA, Japan, Pearl Harbor, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Analyse, Weltkrieg, RIMPAC
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Felix Warmuth (Author), 2013, The U.S.-Japan-relation from 1890 until today, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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