by NONA BLYTH CLOUD
In 1895, Japan was at war with China for supremacy over Korea, which was China’s most important client state. Japan wanted access to Korea’s coal and iron, and to use it as a buffer zone to prevent Chinese or Russian incursions.
Only 42 years earlier, American Commodore Matthew Perry, aboard the frigate Susquehanna, led his squadron of two steamers and two sailing vessels into Tôkyô harbor. After 200 years of Japan’s Sokoku (closed country) policy, which limited trade with Europe to a single Dutch factory (trading post) at Dejima in Nagasaki, Perry’s version of “gunboat diplomacy” forced Japan, which had no Navy whatsoever, to make a trade agreement with the United States. Other Western nations were quick to follow.
When the First Sino-Japanese War began in 1894, China looked like an obvious winner. But Japan had been on a modernization crash-course since the arrival of Commodore Perry, and their forces were better equipped and…
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