Edict of the Imperial Cabinet, given 1 July, Guangxu 20
Korea has been our tributary for the past two hundred odd years. She has given us tribute all this time, which is a matter known to the world. For the past dozen years or so Korea has been troubled by repeated insurrections and we, in sympathy with our small tributary, have as repeatedly sent succour to her aid, eventually placing a Resident in her capital to protect Korea's interests. In the fourth moon of this year another rebellion was begun in Korea, and the King repeatedly asked again for aid from us to put down the rebellion. We then ordered Li Hung-Chang to send troops to Korea; and they having barely reached Yashan the rebels immediately scattered. But the Japanese, without any cause whatever, suddenly sent their troops to Korea, and entered Seoul, the capital of Korea, reinforcing them constantly until they have exceeded ten thousand men. In the meantime the Japanese forced the Korean king to change his system of government, showing a disposition every way of bullying the Koreans.
It was found a difficult matter to reason with the Japanese. Although we have been in the habit of assisting our tributaries, we have never interfered with their internal government. Japan's treaty with Korea was as one country with another; there is no law for sending large armies to bully a country in this way, and compel it to change its system of government. The various powers are united in condemning the conduct of the Japanese, and can give no reasonable name to the army she now has in Korea. Nor has Japan been amenable to reason, nor would she listen to the exhortation to withdraw her troops and confer amicably upon what should be done in Korea. On the contrary, Japan has shown herself bellicose without regard to appearances, and has been increasing her forces there. Her conduct alarmed the people of Korea as well as our merchants there, and so we sent more troops over to protect them. Judge of our surprise then when, halfway to Korea, a number of the Japanese ships suddenly appeared, and taking advantage of our unpreparedness, opened fire upon our transports at a spot on the sea-coast near Yashan, and damaged them, thus causing us to suffer from their treacherous conduct, which could not be foretold by us. As Japan has violated the treaties and not observed international laws, and is now running rampant with her false and treacherous actions commencing hostilities herself, and laying herself open to condemnation by the various powers at large, we therefore desire to make it known to the world that we have always followed the paths of philanthropy and perfect justice throughout the whole complications, while the Japanese, on the other hand, have broken all the laws of nations and treaties which it passes our patience to bear with.
Hence we have commanded Li Hung-Chang to give strict orders to our various armies to hasten with all speed to root the Japanese out of their lairs. He is to send successive armies of valiant men to Korea in order to save the Koreans from the dust of bondage. We also command the Manchu generals, viceroys and governors of the maritime provinces, as well as the commanders-in-chief of the various armies, to prepare for war and to make every effort to fire on the Japanese ships if they come into our ports, and utterly destroy them. We exhort our generals to refrain from the least laxity in obeying our commands in order to avoid severe punishment at our hands. Let all know this edict as if addressed to themselves individually.