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A hundred years ago this week, a small group of Japanese and British officials gathered at the Foreign Office in London, made a few speeches, signed some documents, drank Champagne and then dispersed into the cold and foggy streets of the capital of an empire “on which the sun never set.”

Although the signing of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance (Nichiei Domei) on Jan. 30, 1902, was a low-key affair, it was to prove a turning point in the history of both countries. For Japan it marked the country’s acceptance into that most exclusive of clubs, the Great Powers. For Britain it marked the end of its 19th-century foreign policy of “splendid isolation,” under which it had refused to form military alliances with other countries, trusting instead in the invincibility of the Royal Navy.

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