The seeds of Japanese imperialism lay in its subjugation of Korea. In 1894 the Imperial army invaded Korea which called for help from China. The poorly armed and trained Chinese army was no match for the Imperial army and was decisively defeated. The 1894-95 war is thus water shed in the history of East Asia and marked the rise of Japan as an imperial power.
Japan and its Tryst with Fate as a World Power
The Japanese Imperial dynasty has always dominated East Asia. In other parts of the world the imperialist powers were Great Britain and to a lesser extent France, but in the East Japan held sway. As part of the imperialistpolicy of Japan a clash with China was always on the cards. China also fancied itself as the dominant power in East Asia and Japan was intent on enforcing its writ over all areas under Chinese domination. The power struggle between the two culminated in a clash in Korea. This was after the self imposed isolation of Japan was over in 1853. The Japanese in a matter of decades established their hegemony in Asia and the Korean peninsula.
As part of this imperialist drive the Sino- Japanese war of 1894-95 is extremely important. It was after this war that Japan was recognized by the west as a world power. The next logical step after the defeat of China in Korea was the 1902 mutual defense pact with Great Britain, which effectively recognized Japan as a world power.
The Japanese policy of imperialism resulted in an invasion of Korea. The Japanese imperial army after some skirmishes was able to capture the Korean emperor and install a puppet regime in Seoul on 23 July 1894. The new dispensation at Japanese behest terminated all protocols and agreements with China and Japan became the dominant power in Korea. The Government in Seoul also asked for the unilateral withdrawal of the Chinese Beiyang Army from Korea.
The background to the Japanese involvement in Korea was the Kabo farmers uprising. The Japanese on the pretext of safeguarding their nationals landed troops in Korea. The Emperor was confined to Seoul. The Korean government requested troops from China. The Chinese army got ready to face the Imperial army. The war of 1894-95 between China and Japan was a one sided affair. Three columns of Japanese troops converged on Pyong-Yang from Seoul, Gen-san and Sak-ryong. The Imperial army inflicted a crushing defeat on the Chinese army and the Chinese lost over 35,000 dead. On the sea front the Japanese navyearned a decisive victory as well. In the famous battle at the mouth of the Yalu river called the Battle of Yellow Sea the Chinese fleet was decimated. The Japanese also captured Port Arthur with a land invasionand the humiliation of China was complete and Korea became firmly in the Japanese Sphere of influence
The last battle of the war was the naval engagement at Port Arthur. The Chinese fleet was ingloriously sunk and by February 1895 essentially the war was over, leaving Japan as the sole power in East Asia. This resulted in the Treaty of Shimonoseki (17 April 1895) and gave the Japanese the same powers the western nations were enjoying in China
The 1894-95 war was a key element in defining the power structure in the east and marked the rise of Japanese Imperialism and for the next 50 years Korea was no more than a colony of Japan. It became a protectorate of Japan in 1905 and was annexed in 1910 and the world powers could do nothing about it.