Taft-Katsura Agreement (桂・タフト協定)

The Taft–Katsura Agreement was an agreement made between the Prime Minister of Japan Taro KATSURA, who was also the temporary Minister of Foreign Affairs, and William Howard TAFT, the United States Secretary of War and later the 27th President of the United States, who was also a special envoy visiting Japan on the way back from the Philippines.


In this agreement, the United States recognized Japan's dominance in South Korea (the Korean Empire). In return, Japan recognized the United States' dominance in the Philippines. This agreement was not made public until Tyler DENNETT, a historian of American diplomacy, discovered it when searching the papers of Theodore Roosevelt and published the contents of the telegram about this agreement sent to Elihu ROOT, the Secretary of States at the time, by Taft in a magazine "Current History" in 1924. It was not a reciprocally signed document or secret treaty, but only a meeting memorandum indicating their agreement to facilitate the future relationship between Japan and the United States.

This agreement consists of meeting records containing portions of a long, confidential conversation between the Japanese Prime Minister Katsura and the US special envoy Taft with the help of a translator, Sutemi CHINDA, the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, held in Tokyo on the morning of July 27, 1905. The memo indicating the details of those discussions was dated as July 29, 1905.

It is assumed that in this agreement, which was entered into at a time when powerful countries were trying to extend their power, the heads of Japan and the United States agreed to the following rights for each other: that Japan had the right to influence South Korea and that the United States had the right to influence the Philippines.

Contents of the agreement

In the meeting, three issues were mainly negotiated.

Japan declared that it had no aggressive plans for the Philippines which had been the colony of the United States.

The peace in East Asia can be best accomplished by a de facto alliance between Japan, the United States and Great Britain.

The United States approves Japan's control in South Korea.

In this agreement, Katsura pointed out that the Korean government was the direct cause of the Russo-Japanese War, which had just reached a cease-fire. Katsura stated that a comprehensive solution to the problem of the Korean Peninsula should be the logical outcome of this war, and that if left alone, the Korean Empire would continue to enter into treaties with other powers that would cause the same problem, which would result in bringing Japan into a fight again. Therefore, he claimed that Japan must take steps to prevent the Korean government from making treaties again which would force Japan into fighting another foreign war.

After listening to Katsura, the special envoy Taft agreed that the establishment of a Japanese protectorate over Korea would directly contribute to the stability in east Asia.

Taft also expressed his belief that President Roosevelt would agree with him in this regard.

As previously mentioned, Taft sent a telegram about the above mentioned agreement to Elihu ROOT, the Secretary of States, but when the telegram arrived in Washington, he was away going to Newfoundland on vacation. Accordingly, Roosevelt found the telegram on July 31 and sent a telegram to Taft saying that everything Katsura and Taft had discussed in the meeting was right and that Katsura should be notified that he had approved what Taft had reported to him. Taft received it on August 7 and sent a telegram from Manila, where he was staying, to Katsura saying that Roosevelt had approved everything Taft had said in the meeting. A series of acts related to this agreement between Japan and the United States was completed when next day Katsura informed the Foreign Minister, Jutaro KOMURA, who was in Portsmouth (New Hampshire) in the United States as a Japanese plenipotentiary of the Russo-Japan Peace Conference (The Portsmouth Peace Conference).

The Background and Outcome

Due to the Taft-Katsura Agreement, the Second Anglo-Japanese Alliance and the Treaty of Portsmouth made after the Russo-Japanese War, which gave Russia superiority over South Korea, all powerful countries virtually approved that Japan should have dominance in South Korea.

After that, the Eulsa Treaty was made, and Japan took over the diplomatic right of the Korean Empire, which practically made Korea the protectorate of Japan.

However, Gao Zong (Korean King) caused the Hague Secret Emissary Affair by outsmarting the Eulsa Treaty, which resulted in him being replaced.

Korean reaction

In the Republic of Korea now, this Agreement is often used as an example of how the United States cannot be trusted with regards to Korean security and sovereignty issues.

According to some Korean historians and Korean textbooks, this agreement was the direct cause of Japan's colonization of Korea.