Mukden to Pearl Harbor

The Foreign Policies of Japan

Courtesy Reuters

DURING the decade and more preceding Pearl Harbor a conflict went on within the Japanese Government between a dominant group in the Army, which insisted upon plunging the country into a course of forcible expansion, and civilian and Navy leaders, who were either opposed to such a course or perceived grave risks in it. Each successive step toward the fulfillment of expansionist aims was taken on the initiative of the Army, often in defiance of constituted authority, until finally the moderates lost control of the situation altogether and an Army-dictated Cabinet under Prince Konoye came into office in July 1940. The complete story of this struggle and of the victory of the Army was revealed for the first time by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, which on November 12, 1948, completed the reading of its judgment in the trial of the 25 major Japanese war criminals, on which the Tribunal had sat for over two years. Many of the essential facts are still little known, and the full significance of the revelations seems scarcely to have been appreciated in the United States.

It is an amazing record of how a reckless, determined and ruthless military group succeeded in imposing its will upon an irresolute nation; of how that group relied upon an extraordinary abuse of power in order to gain its ends, and resorted freely to intrigue, duplicity, terrorism and assassination. It shows that the opposing majority, apprehensive lest the military, if crossed, be aroused to take extreme measures, supinely tried to placate and appease the warmakers. A review of the record suggests that the sequence of events that carried Japan inexorably one step at a time toward the fateful decision to go to war against the western Powers falls into three stages. The first reached from 1928 until February 1936, when expansionist moves were made by the Army on its own initiative without awaiting, and often in defiance of, government orders. The second was from March 1936 until September 1940, when the Japanese Government itself

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