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Recommended: "Treaty of Portsmouth now seen as global turning point"

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    erenehan@yahoo.com recommends this article from The Christian Science Monitor re: Treaty of Portsmouth ======================= ADVERTISEMENT
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 31, 2005
      erenehan@... recommends this article from The Christian Science Monitor

      re: Treaty of Portsmouth

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      Headline: Treaty of Portsmouth now seen as global turning point
      Byline: Robert Marquand Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
      Date: 12/30/2005

      (TOKYO, AND PORTSMOUTH, N.H.)For a month 100 years ago, a quiet New England port held the focus of
      the world.

      From Aug. 9 to Sept. 5, diplomats were thrown together with local
      ladies clubs, and foreign reporters swooped onto picket-fenced streets
      and called the town a beacon of hope to end the cataclysm between
      "East" and "West."

      In fact, the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, fought mostly in Manchuria,
      was so profound in its effect that some historians now call it "World
      War 0."

      The scale and severity of the clashes, and the possibility that Europe
      might join in, frightened the entire world. Japan lost 110,000 soldiers
      in the first year. Russia's great Baltic Navy steamed four months to
      the Pacific - then lost 16 battleships in 36 hours in the Tsushima
      Strait. After 18 months Russia didn't win a battle. Its proud image was
      shattered. Japan destroyed the myth of European invincibility, but was
      nearly bankrupt. Neither side wanted talks. Neither wanted a mediator.

      But President Theodore Roosevelt stepped into the fray, hosting 30 days
      of negotiations that resulted in a peace pact - and America's first
      Nobel Peace Prize, awarded partly for a diplomatic approach later
      called "multtrack."

      Almost forgotten

      Today the 1905 war is often little more than a footnote. It has been
      marginalized and dwarfed by the horrors of World Wars I and II.

      Yet a century later historians say the conflict marked a series of
      crucial global turning points: It opened what historian Herbert Bix
      calls a "new era of imperial rivalry in Asia and the Pacific." Japan
      began its rise. The war was unique: Fought between two powers, Russia
      and Japan, within the boundaries of two neutral countries, China and

      The war showcased modern hardware and tactics. Improbably, the peace
      was brokered by a third party, the US, in a debut international

      The Sakhalin and Kurile islands, whose ownership was still under
      discussion last month in Tokyo at a meeting between Russian and
      Japanese heads of state, were the central sticking point in the
      Portsmouth treaty, and nearly scuppered the deal. Chief Russian
      diplomat Sergius Witte twice pocketed cables from Czar Nicholas asking
      him to come home.

      For Russia, the war was a disaster for the Czar; grumbling in the
      streets added to unhappiness leading eventually to the rise of the

      In Japan, the war had an opposite effect: It brought Japan
      international prominence, and stoked pride. The event closely melded
      military and emperor - and set the stage for Japan's push through all
      of Asia. Emperor Hirohito, says Mr. Bix, grew up playing childhood
      military games from the Russo-Japanese War. Later, on the eve of Pearl
      Harbor, Japan refused to leave Manchuria, arguing that to do so would
      "give up the fruits of the ... Russo Japanese War," as Hara Yoshimichi,
      privy council in Tokyo, put it. Naval tactics, especially Japan's
      "single blow" approach against the Russian navy, prefigured Pearl

      It would be hard to overstate how transfixing the war was at the time.
      "The loss of life was terrible on both sides," says Peter Randall, a
      Treaty of Portsmouth historian. "In the Port Arthur battle the Japanese
      kept attacking and attacking, and with modern weapons the severity was
      frightening. The entire world was watching. "

      Concern ran so high that many American churches held services for
      peace. The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, asked her church
      members to pray daily for peace from June 17 to July 1 1905.

      Today, Japanese and Russian historians tend to downplay it as a
      "regional conflict." However, a major exhibition of 1905 war artifacts
      just closed at the Yushukan museum in Tokyo, and presented the war as a
      glorious moment in Japan's rise.

      For the 100th anniversary in Portsmouth earlier this year, local groups
      put on an exhibit at the John Paul Jones House, hosted two state
      dinners and historical reenactments, and developed a curriculum, a
      traveling exhibition, and a website (www.portsmouthpeacetreaty.com).

      The war itself began largely out of Japan's desire for the same kind of
      great power status it witnessed European colonial powers enjoying in
      Asia. Japan was on a roll by 1904. Feudal warlords were gone, Japan was
      unified under Meij rule. To occupy a chunk of China was seen as
      desirable. Yet Tokyo's efforts were blocked by European powers cutting
      deals with the Chinese court. So Japan attacked Russia at Port Arthur
      in Feb. 4, 1904. Later, as the peace delegations steamed to Portsmouth,
      Japan seized part of Sakhalin Island, and used it as leverage in the

      Why Portsmouth?

      The talks were first planned for the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
      But Roosevelt, who never actually attended the talks, felt the Navy
      yard at Portsmouth provided more security. There was a transatlantic
      cable nearby at Rye Beach, and the owner of the massive Wentworth Hotel
      cleared the place for both delegations.

      The town was abuzz. The young ladies of Portsmouth were "enthralled"
      with the idea of meeting a diplomat, one reporter said. "Few have ever
      met a Russian or Japanese."

      Throughout the talks, a 35 square foot "peace flag" flew from the mast
      of a ship moored in the harbor, within view of the delegates. It was
      sponsored by one Sarah Farmer, who ran a nearby Bahai commune called
      Green Acres. Ms. Farmer also hosted a get-together for the Japanese

      Historian Randall says a main unappreciated legacy of the talks is
      President Roosevelt's canny introduction of multi-track negotiations -
      the mix of formal talks with informal meetings. The constant
      intermingling between local townspeople, the delegates, the press, and
      officials was designed to break the grim clouds. "Mostly historians
      have looked at the documents, without the context of multitrack that
      Roosevelt initiated," Randall says.

      The talks began by making both sides equal, though the Japanese balked
      at this. At one point, Japan's foreign minister Jutaro Komura said to
      Mr. Witte, Russia's negotiator, "You talk as if you represented the
      victor." Witte replied, "there are no victors here."

      Japan wanted war cost cash from Moscow and to hold all of Sakhalin
      Island. Russia said it would pay "not a kopek" for a war it did not
      start. Talks swung sharply for days, increasing in tension and
      intensity, before Japan agreed on Aug. 29 to keep half of Sakhalin and
      that Russia would pay no indemnity.

      Bells rang throughout southern New Hampshire, and at the Wentworth
      hotel, guests and staff wept with joy. Japanese envoys were described
      as smiling for the first time since arriving, and both delegations
      joined for a celebratory lunch.

      News of the terms enraged both Moscow and Tokyo, and caused riots. Some
      30,000 people rampaged in Tokyo, destroying 70 percent of the police
      boxes in the city. But the treaty stuck. Moreover, fishing and
      commercial activity started up immediately between the belligerents.
      Russia's legal adviser Theodore de Martens said "it would be hard to
      find a similar example in the peace treaties concluded up to the
      present time by civilized nations."

      Currently, the town of Portsmouth and civic groups are seeking funds to
      build a peace memorial there.

      (c) Copyright 2005 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.

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