Kwantung Peninsula

Digital relief map of Kwantung Peninsula

The Kwantung Peninsula, today known as the Liaodong Peninsula, figured prominently in Japanese history prior to the Pacific War, but played a minor role in the war itself.  Not to be confused with Kwangtung Province of south China, the Kwantung Peninsula extends southward into the Yellow Sea northwest of Korea.  There is an excellent natural harbor at its southern tip, Lushun, which subsequently became known as Port Arthur.

The Japanese occupied the peninsula during First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), and the Japanese claimed sovereignty over the peninsula under the Treaty of Shimonoseki. However, the Triple Intervention by Germany, France, and Russia forced Japan to give up the peninsula. The Russians then pressured China to grant a 25-year lease on the peninsula, beginning in 1898, which provoked outrage in Japan and was a major cause of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. Port Arthur fell in November 1905 following a long and bloody siege, and the Russian lease on the Kwantung Peninsula was taken over by the Japanese under the terms of the Treaty of Portsmouth of 1905. The lease was extended until 1997 as one of the Thirteen Demands imposed on China by Japan during the First World War.

The Japanese Army garrison dispatched to protect the peninsula, the Kwantung Army, was led by extreme nationalist officers who often acted independently of the civil government in Tokyo.  These hotheaded officers were largely responsible for further Japanese incursions in Manchuria that helped launch the Second World War.

The territory was initially ruled by governor-general, but after the puppet state of Manchukuo was established in 1932, this role was taken over by the ambassador to Manchukuo, who was also the commander of Kwantung Army.

The Russians recaptured Port Arthur during their brief Manchurian campaign in the closing days of the Pacific War, and returned it to China in 1955.


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