On 16 July 1940 the Yonai Cabinet collapsed, due to plotting by the Army, and the Second Konoye Cabinet was formed. This Cabinet adopted "The Principles to Cope with the Changing World Situation" drawn up by Imperial General Headquarters (Army Section), as the basis for its national policy and began to strengthen the Axis ties between Japan, Germany and Italy in accordance with this policy. Although Admiral Zengo Yoshida, Minister of the Navy at that time, agreed to the policy, he had no idea that it would eventually lead to an alliance with Germany and Italy.
A conference was held between Foreign Minister Matsuoka and German Ambassador to Japan Ott, which showed a definite movement toward the formation of an alliance. It was not until the arrival in Japan of Special Envoy Stahmer, however, that any real progress was made in this direction. Anxiety and tension caused by the political situation finally drove Minister of the Navy Yoshida to a severe nervous breakdown and he had to be hospitalized. In consequence, Admiral Oikawa was appointed Minister of the Navy on 5 September.
The brilliant German victories on the European battlefields swayed public opinion within Japan and gave further support to the formation of an alliance. Even within the Navy office itself there were people who supported this view. They believed that the Navy
should not oppose the Tripartite Alliance, provided Japan was not obliged to automatically enter war on the side of Germany, even should the United States intervene in the European war.
The leading men in the Ministry of Navy and the Naval General Staff at that time were: Minister of Navy Oikawa, Vice Minister Teijiro Toyoda, Chief of the Bureau of Naval Affairs Abe, Chief of the Naval General Staff Prince Fushimi, Deputy Chief of the Naval General Staff Kondo, and Chief of the Operational Bureau of the Naval Staff Ugaki. Because of their desire to maintain good relations with the United States, knowing that the Navy was not fully prepared for war, these men were not supporters of the Alliance. Ugaki and Abe, in particular, strongly opposed the alliance, Ugaki being most vigorous in his opposition. However, after several meetings for joint study of the pact held by the leaders of the Ministry of the Navy and the Naval General Staff during mid-September, Minister of the Navy Oikawa expressed the opinion that recognition of the alliance was inevitable and even Ugaki was finally compelled to agree.
The following were the reasons given for the Navy finally agreeing to the alliance:
1. Foreign Minister Matsuoka at the time strongly contended that the strengthening of the ties between Japan; Germany and Italy through the conclusion of a tripartite alliance would force the United States to act more prudently in carrying out her plans against Japan,
and, in the long run, was the best method to prevent war with the United States. the Navy did not necessarily agree with this contention in every respect, but the Navy was in a position where she had to respect the opinion of a responsible diplomatic specialist. (Mr. Arita, who was Foreign Minister in 1939 when the question of the alliance first arose, had strongly opposed it.)
2. At the time, because of the German Army's successes in Europe, popular opinion desired the alliance, and there was a general tendency to disregard the Navy's desire to retain good relations with the United States and avoid war. It was felt that if the Navy adhered to its policy of opposition to the Alliance, that not only would it prove detrimental to the preparations for war in time of a national emergency but might, in an extreme case, even result in serious conflict between the Army and the Navy. The Navy felt that the preparations for the defense of Japan might be seriously threatened if she maintained her attitude of opposition.
3. Had the Navy continued to block the alliance, it may have helped maintain friendly relations with the United States, but this was doubtful. Therefore, as it was unwise to continue to rely on materials from the United States alone for the completion of the defense, in order to maintain and increase the national strength, it was absolutely necessary to obtain resources from the Southern areas through as friendly means as possible. Under the circumstances, it was felt that the completion of the alliance between Japan, Germany and Italy would greatly strengthen Japan's
bargaining potential with the Southern area.
Apart from the above reasons, it is a fact that the Navy leaders of the time lacked the courage to maintain firmly their opposition to the alliance. This is borne out by the fact that the Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet Yamamoto upon hearing of the approval of the alliance by the leaders of the Naval General Staff and the Ministry of Navy, said: "their line of thinking is far too political."