By Eric Hammel Japan’s road to World War II was a long one. Throughout the late 19th century, the island nation broke out of its feudal past on a path to modernity with a ruthlessness and singlemindedness that would have scared Western nations had they been paying attention. The modern Japanese Navy was modeled on Britain’s Royal Navy, its army was patterned on the Prussian army, and it imported its new modern industrial base from the best examples the world around. By 1894, Japan was ready to join in the game of empire that had so enriched the major European powers over the previous 400 years. Japan Expands Into Korea Japan’s first target for acquisition was Korea. First, in July 1894, it attacked the Chinese forces that outposted the peninsula, then it declared war four days later. The Chinese were routed and a peace treaty was signed in March 1895 that gave Japan access to Korea and Formosa. Shortly, France, Germany, and Russia informed Japan that they would oppose the outright absorption of Korea into a Japanese empire. This so-called Triple Intervention was taken by Japanese leaders to mean that even the most modern Asian state was not to be granted a status equal to that of European nations. This rebuke only fueled Japan’s newfound lust for empire. Japan needed resources to realize its industrial ambitions. The country possessed precious few of its own, but nearby Korea and adjacent Manchuria had them in abundance. This outlook cast Russia as a leading cont


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