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As the path for the Trans-Siberian Railway takes it across the Heilongjian Province of (OTL) Manchuria, tensions rise between the Russians, the Japanese (whose influence in this area is growing), and the Chinese (who claim the area).
The Japanese, determined not to allow the Russians to have a warm-water port in what they see as their territory, declare war. Japanese troops move across Korea (which is Japanese controlled) to Port Arthur, backed up by a segment of the Japanese fleet (The rest being sent to blockade the port at Vladivostok)
Thanks to the now two-way Trans-Siberian Railway, the Russians are able to rush troops from the western part of the empire to the far east, and then down across Manchuria. Although the Japanese inflict severe damage on the fleet stationed at Port Arthur, they are unable to completely expel the Russian forces.
The Chinese government, while not declaring war on either side, protests the ongoing presence of both the Japanese and Russian forces in what it considers its territory. The Chinese military secretly supplies the Manchurian people with weapons in hopes that they will rise up and expel the foreigners.
The Mancurian locals do, in fact, rise up. But they are fragmented and have no unified plan of action. About a third of the locals, those who aren’t directly impacted by the railway in any way, fight any non-Chinese they come across. The rest fight either for the Russians or the Japanese, in support of their projects which have brought a great deal of money into an area that wouldn’t otherwise have come. They see the foreigners as bringers of prosperity, and therefore have little or no attachment to the Chinese government or the Chinese Empire.
Aided by their Manchurian allies, the Japanese are able, finally, to expel the Russian forces from the area around Port Arthur. The Russians retreat slowly back across Manchuria. However they find a great amount of support in the northeastern part of the territory, and eventually the Russian and Japanese forces come to an entrenched standstill, with neither side able to make any progress.
In an attempt to reclaim Manchuria, The Chinese government secretly begins supplying arms and other commodities to both the Japanese and Russian forces. While this causes the war to stretch on, it doesn’t change anything.
Attempting to gain the upper hand, Russia publicly thanks the Chinese government for supplying their forces, and asks them to join them in an alliance to push the Japanese out of the area once and for all. The Japanese quickly protest, saying that they were the ones being supplied by the Chinese. The Chinese government retreats in confusion, as the Japanese and Russians call a halt to the conflict while they discuss the matter.
25 Jun 1905
The British Empire steps in to help mediate the conflict and bring about a resolution. Four sided talks commence in Vancouver, Canada, between the British, the Chinese, the Russians, and the Japanese. The resulting “Vancouver Accords” has the following points
- Port Arthur and the surrounding territory (roughly the southern half of OTL Liaoning Province) are ceded to Japan and become merged with Korea
- The southern half of OTL Jilin Province (roughly everything south of Changchun) is also ceded to Japan
- All of OTL Heilongjian Province is ceded to Russia
- The remainder of Manchuria remains part of the Chinese Empire
- The branch of the Trans-Siberian Railway that reaches from Vladivostok to Port Arthur comes under joint Russian-Japanese control