Portsmouth, Treaty of

   The diplomatic settlement of the Russo-Japanese War. The war broke out with Japan’s surprise attack on Port Arthur on February 8, 1904, but it was caused by Russia’s hegemonic ambitions in Manchuria. The conflict was a severe blow to the Open Door diplomacy of the United States and a serious threat to the integrity of China. After the battle of Mukden, decided in favor of Japan between February 23 and March 10, 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt was indirectly approached as a possible mediator. He was aware of two major stumbling blocks: Tokyo’s demands for a war indemnity and for the surrender of Sakhalin Island, which St. Petersburg adamantly resisted.
   The peace talks began at Portsmouth, New Hampshire on August 9, 1905, and Roosevelt monitored them from a distance for two weeks, tirelessly stepping in to break every deadlock. Eventually, the Japanese were willing to restore the northern half of Sakhalin to Russia while Russia seemed ready to conclude peace if any reference to what might be interpreted as a war indemnity was abandoned. The accord agreed to on August 23 finalized terms that surprised the American president. They were less favorable to Tokyo than those he had earlier wrung from St. Petersburg. Unknown to him, the Russian envoy had in fact cleverly guessed and used to his country’s advantage Japan’s eagerness to reach a settlement. Signed on September 5, 1905, the Treaty of Portsmouth was a compromise agreement that froze the new power equilibrium that had resulted from the battle of Mukden six months earlier. The Japanese, who had dropped their demand for financial compensation, received the southern half of Sakhalin, the Guangdong concession, which comprised Port Arthur, and the Russian rights to the south-Manchurian railroad - although the region remained open to international trade and investments. The Russians kept the northern half of Sakhalin, as well as their control over the Kharbin- Changchun railroad in northern Manchuria, and recognized Japanese predominance in Korea, with the blessing of the United States given that American policy included acceptance of a Japanese Korea. In all, Russia did not lose as much as her defeat ought to have entailed; she retained a foothold in China and remained an Asian power that could still counteract Japanese influence - a welcome preservation of the balance of power in the Far East. Theodore Roosevelt’s single-handed peacemaking feat at Portsmouth was crowned by the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize.
   See also <>.
    Esthus, Raymond A. Double Eagle and Rising Sun: The Russians and Japanese at Portsmouth in 1905 . Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1988;
    Neu, Charles E. An Uncertain Friendship: Theodore Roosevelt and Japan, 1906–1909 . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967;
    Trani, Eugene P. The Treaty of Portsmouth: An Adventure in American Diplomacy . Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1969.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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