Born in Choshu, Katsura Taro fought along his clansmen during the Bakumatsu period. His was quickly recognised by Yamagata Aritomo, who later assisted his political rise.
Katsura was sent twice to Germany (1870-73 & 1884) to study military strategy. In 1886, he became vice-minister of war. He led the Japanese troops to victory during the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), and soon became war minister (1898-1901), then prime minister (1901-1906), during which term he signed the Anglo-Japanese alliance, then got recognition by Britain of Japan's control over Korea, following the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05).
Katsura had to resign in 1906 in favour of Prince Saionji due to public anger at the Treaty of Portsmouth settling the Russo-Japanese War, but giving Japan little compared to the public's expectations.
He served a second term from 1908 to 1911, and oversaw the annexation of Korea after Ito Hirobumi's assassination in 1909. Just after Saionji entered his second term as premier, he was forced to resign over a military crisis, and Katsura commenced his third term. However, the major parliamentary parties united in opposition and stirred public anger in what wa seen as a political manipulation by the genro. Katsura, faced to a non-confidence vote, turned to the emperor, but was eventually forced to withdraw in February 1913. He died soon afterwards.
Katsura Taro keeps the distinctio of being the longest serving prime minister in Japan's history (almost 12 years in total).
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