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Dewey defeated the Spanish was soon tempered not only by the Insurrection but also by the reality of the changing balance of power in the Pacific. By 1905 Japan, as a result of victories over China and Russia, emerged as the dominant Asian power. Moreover, the potential Japanese threat of hegemony increased as the fluid diplomatic configuration of the late 19th century European power froze in the years preceding World War I. England s anxiety about Europe led to an Anglo-Japanese alliance in 1902. England s recognition of Japanese paramountcy and Europe s increasing self-absorption caused their retreat from the Asian scene. This turn in affairs, together with Japanese power and Chinese weakness, combined to make American policy planners see Japan alone as the future rival to the United States in Asia. In addition, America felt that Japan threatened the stability of peace in Asia. In turn, to Japanese planners America became the only power capable of and interests in checking Japanese imperialism. Prior to 1941, however, the United States was not willing militarily to oppose Japan s drive for hegemony. The traditional isolation of America, its remoteness from Asia, and its primary connections with Europe circumscribed American policy in the Philippines and the Pacific. To avoid an eventual confrontation with Japan the United States had to develop a policy of minimizing liabilities which might ensnare America. The possession of the Philippines was one of the most inhibiting elements in the American diplomatic posture in Asia. Strategically, the Philippines were a vulnerable pawn which the Americans were compelled to defend. By 1907 President Roosevelt saw that the Philippines aggravated flaws in American diplomacy in Asia. In a letter to William Howard Taft, then Secretary of War, he noted that the Philippine Islands form our heel of Achilles. They are all that makes the present situation with Japan dangerous. Roosevelt argued for Philippine independence as a means of diminishing America military risk, and this theme was repeated with increasing frequency as Japanese imperialism became more blatant through the years. The Japanese action in 1913 in Manchuria encouraged the American Congress to establish a Philippine Commonwealth. Section Eleven of the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934, entitled Neutralization of the Philippine Islands, specifically instructed the American President to enter into negotiations with foreign powers for the perpetual neutralization of the Philippine Islands in order to absolve the United States of any postindependence obligations. As Japanese imperialism became more menacing throughout the later 1930 s Japan became increasingly the enemy, despite sympathetic interest at both ends of the Philippine political and economic spectrum. Commitment to Philippine nationalism was
an overriding passion, and Japan appeared as a threat to the success of a postindependence Republic of the Philippines. The fall of France in the spring of 1940 was followed in September by a GermanItalian-Japanese axis alliance, which acknowledged the leadership of Japan in establishing a New Order in East Asia. On July 22, 1941, Japan moved into Indo-China. This calculated Japanese decision was the step which President Roosevelt felt American could not let Japan take. Four days later, Roosevelt froze all Japanese assets in the United States, impelling both sides toward a confrontation. In early August, Japan finally decided firmly to avoid a war with Russia in Manchuria and Siberia and to turn southward. The Japanese navy, unhappy over its failure to obtain what it considered sufficient oil concessions during the Kobayashi and Yoshizawa trade missions to the Dutch East Indies, argued that Japan could not wait past early 1942 to decide on policy. It was assumed that military balance of power would shift against Japan so decidedly that there would be little chance for success. At the Imperial Conference of September 6, 1941, Admiral Nagano Osami urged that Japan strike south to guarantee the vital oil flow for Japan. If not, he warned, Japanese reserves would be used up, and Japan would become so dependent on American oil as to inhibit Japanese maneuverability.