Ashburton Guardian Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. TUESDAY, MAY 30, 1905. IN THE WATERS OF THE FAR EAST.
The long expeoted encounter between Admiral Rozjestvenski and Admiral Togo has at last taken place, the scene of the engagement being in the Straits of Korea. Tho mystery that has wrapped th« movements of the Japanese Admiral is now cleared up, and it is apparent that he has been patiently waitiDg for his opponent at the entrance to the Sea of Japan, ft broad expanse of water which lies between Japan on the one side and the coasts of Korea and Manchuria on the other. Tn its passage to Vladivostock, the Baltic Fleet hnd to traverse this sea, and ifc had to effect an entrance either by the Korean Straits, situated at the southern end, or by La Perouse Strait or Tsugaru Strait, situated at the northern end. The whole three of these approaches to Vladivostock have been under the surveillance of a portion of the Japanese fleet aver since Rozjestvenski drew near to the theatre of war, and Togo's scouting cruisers have, donbtleßa, been in touch with the enemy's fleet for the past two months or more. If the Russian Admiral had elected to make his dash for Vladivo3tock through one of the northern approaches to the Sea of Japan, Togo would, of course, have been immediately apprised of the fact by his cruisers, and would then have steamed Dorth to meet him there. Rozjestven?ki, therefore, evidently decided not to postpone the inevitable any longer, but to take his chances by escaping with the main body of his ships before the question of coal supplies began to trouble him again. It is not long since he left his anchorage off the coast of French Cochin China, so that the coal bunkers might have been expected to be fairly well stocked. But the consumption of coal on modern warships in enormous, and it is possible that the surmise of London experts is correct that it was a scarcity of coal th»t induced the Russian Admiral to try the shortest route. The cables state that Russian advices from Shanghai report that the Vladivostock Fleet participated in the recent engagement. This report, however, has to be received with caution. If it is true, it is evident tnat Rozjeatveneki's choice of the southern approach, by which to make hia dash for the goal of his long journey, was part of a preconcerted plan. On paper the Russian fleet was the stronger of the two, though as regards cruisers the advantage lay with the Japanese. Togo is believed to have bad four fir&t-class and two second-class battleships, eight armoured cruisers, fifteen protected cruisers, and a number of destroyers and torpedo boats, If it is correct, as reported, that the Vladivostock squadron was also on the scene, then the Russian superiority in numbers was increased. The exact fighting strength of the Rozjestvenski's fleet is not known for certain, but, at anyrate, it was in. numbers the most formidable naval force that ever Bailed out; of European waters. The existence of several supplementary squadrons under various Admirals such as Enkwisfc, Diebogatoff, and Foelkersahm, whose names have cropped up in the cables from time to time, makes it almost impossible to arrive at a correct estimate of the Russian naval strength, Where the Japanese advantage lay was in general gun power, in speed, and in the superior cleanness of their ships. Admiral Togo steadily refused to be drawn away from his base, and it is probable that Roajestvonski's long delay in Kamranh Bay and other harbours near the Coast of IndoChina, was partly dictated by the desire to attract his opponent southwards, and thus leave a clearer and more open road for him to make his attempt to reach his objective. The Russians have been severely defeated, aud fleeing northwards, leaving sixtpen of their vessels either at the bottom of the sea or in the hands of the enemy. Whether they penetrated into the sea of Japan, or were driven back again through the Korean Straits, is not clear; but if they succeeded in getting through, then Rozjostvenski, who is stated to be fleeing northwards, may manage to make the harbour of Vladiyostock, if he got a good start of his puisuers. fhe sjnking of battleships, cruisers, transport?", destroyers, and a repairing ship, is a crushing blow to the Russians, and when full particulars come to hand, the loss may be found to be heavier still. Rozjestvenski is conjectured to have split his forces into two divisions, in the hope that one of them would succeed in eludiDg the Japanese, and it is possible that the division commanded by himself has accomplished that purpose. The Japanese Government have kept; the striotest possible censorship over the news agencies, but from what information has been got through, it is clear that Togo has administered the final crusher to Russian power in the Far East. Hs has himself not escaped soathelesa, and in a struggle conducted on such a colossal scale, ifc was only to be expected that both sides would Buffer heavily; Jjut the victor's losse3 are small compared with those of the vanquished, and may be amply counterbalanced by the captures that have been made.