Root-Takahira Agreement: Between the United States and Japan

Relations between Japan and the United States remained tense during Theodore Roosevelt`s second term. Tensions had developed earlier over spheres of influence in the Far East and the treatment of Japanese living in the U.S. Further, Roosevelt had never been forgiven for his opposition to Russian reparations for the Japanese at the end of the earlier war between those two nations. Many American farmers and laborers on the West Coast resented competition from hard-working Japanese immigrants. Conditions had deteriorated so badly by 1907 that there was talk of war in both countries.

A small, positive step was taken in 1907 when the United States and Japan concluded the so-called "Gentlemen`s Agreement," in which Japan promised to slow the exodus of workers destined for the U.S., by refusing to grant them passports. This relieved the United States of taking any action of its own on Japanese immigration. Racial antipathy remained, however, particularly in California.

Roosevelt was dedicated to further improving relations, realizing that the American position in the Philippines would be difficult to maintain against a Japanese adversary. An exchange of notes followed between Elihu Root, the U.S. secretary of state, and Takahira Kogoro, the Japanese ambassador in Washington. The resulting position statements included the following:

  • A pledge to maintain the status quo in the Far East
  • Recognition of China`s independence and territorial integrity, and support for continuation of the Open Door policy
  • An agreement to mutual consultation in the event of future Far Eastern crises.
The Root-Takahira Agreement appeared to be a great success, given that the war drums in both nations were quieted. However, implicit in the understanding was American recognition of two controversial Japanese actions—the annexation of Korea and their increasing dominance in Manchuria. Indeed, the Japanese were espousing a type of Monroe Doctrine for the Far East, but one that assigned Japan a far more powerful economic role than the United States had in Latin America.

See other foreign affairs issues under Theodore Roosevelt.

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