Fourth Year of the China Incident (1940)

Fourth Year of the China Incident (1940)                              1
   Summary of Important Events during 1940                            1
   Summary of Operations in China from 1937 - 1940                    3
   The Asama Maru Incident                                            5
   The Policy on China                                                6
   Occupation of Northern French Indo-China                           8
   Important National Policies                                       13
     Decision on a General National Policy
     (27 July 1940)                                                  13
   The Navy's Views on the "Principles to Cope
   with the Changing World Situation"                                18
   Tripartite Alliance Pact                                          20
      The First Phase                                                20
      The Second Phase                                               22
      Estimates by the Japanese Government                           24
      Views of the Japanese Navy 

Summary of Important Events during 1940

10 January:   Aerial bombardment of Kweilin.
14 January:   General resignation of Abe Cabinet.
16 January:   Yonai Cabinet formed.
21 January:   Asama Maru inspected off Tokyo Bay and German passengers
              transferred to British warship.
28 January:   Nanning Operations started (Resumption of mopping up
              operations: January - February).
12 March:     Wang Ching-wei announced establishment of a new Chinese
              Central Government in Nanking.
17 March:     Soviet-Finnish Peace Treaty signed.
30 March:     New Chinese National Government formally established in
 9 April:     German forces invaded Denmark and Norway.
 1 May:       Ichang Operations started (May - June).
10 May:       German forces entered Holland and Belgium.
14 May:       Dutch forces surrendered.
17 May:       German forces penetrated the Maginot Line.
28 May:       Belgium surrendered.
 4 June:      America placed an embargo on export of machine tools to
10 June:      Italy entered the war to aid Germany.
13 June:      A new treaty between Japan and Thailand concluded.
14 June:      German forces entered Paris.


17 June:      France surrendered to Germany.
20 June:      French Indo-China accepted Japan's request to ban
              the shipment of supplies to China through her ter-
              ritory and also agreed to the dispatch of Japanese
              inspectors to enforce this.
27 June:      Japanese forces occupied Ningming for observation of
              French Indo-China.
28 June:      Soviet troops invaded Rumania.
 1 July:      Japanese forces occupied Lungchow for observation of
              French Indo-China.
16 July:      General resignation of Yonai Cabinet.
17 July:      Great Britain decided to close the Burma Road.
22 July:      The Second Konoye Cabinet formed.
27 July:      The Japanese Government formulated its national policy
              "Principles to Cope with the Changing World Situation"
10 August:    Blockaded zone of Central and South China sea coast
13 September: Aerial bombardment of Chungking.
23 September: Japanese forces crossed border into northern French
27 September: United States placed an embargo on export of scrap iron
              to Japan.
27 September: Japan-Germany-Italy Tripartite Alliance Pact signed.
 5 October:   German forces invaded Rumania.
11 October:   Italy entered war against Greece. 


18 October:   Japanese naval planes started bombing the Burma Road.  
              Great Britain reopened the Burma Road. 
28 October:   Japanese force evacuated Nanning. 
13 November:  Council convened to discuss the China Incident in the 
              presence of the Emperor. 
30 November:  The Japan-China Basic Treaty concluded. Japan-
              Manchuria-China Joint Declaration signed.
 8 December:  Hostilities started between Thailand and French Indo-
              China forces.
12 December:  Germany and Soviet Russia agreed to the partition of
              Poland. Japanese Air Force bombed Hsiangyun and Chengtu
              (30 December).

Summary of Operations in China from 1937 - 1940

In 1937, the first year of the China Incident, the Japanese forces controlled North China, reduced Shanghai and occupied Nanking, the capital of China; in 1938, the second year, they reduced Hsuchow (in Central China), captured the three Wuhaw cities and Canton; in 1939, the third year of the Incident, the Japanese forces attempted to restore peace by mopping-up the enemy in the areas surrounding key points that were occupied, while taking strategic points, such as Nanchang and Nanning on lard, as well as capturing Hainan Island, Haichow, Swatow and Pakhoi, important points along the coast, and tightening the sea blockade in an attempt to bring about the downfall of the Chiang regime.


However, Chiang Kai-shek removed the government to Chungking and persistently continued his war against Japan. In a radio broadcast he stated, "The campaign up to the abandonment of the Wuhan cities closes the first phase of the war against Japan and the subsequent year or year and a half may be termed the second phase of resistance during which preparations for counteroffensives will be made. In the following years, namely, the third period of resistance, the offensive will be taken." Chiang started to rebuild his army, and, about October 1939, he boasted he had 250 divisions of about 2,000,000 men. In early December of that year he launched concerted attacks in many places south of the Yangtze River.

Chiang Kai-shek took the offensive since he estimated that the invasion power of the Japanese forces had been dissipated while his preparations for counteroffensives had made considerable progress. He was also apprehensive that the movement for the establishment of the Wang regime would pick up momentum as time passed while the attitude of the powers to aid his regime would cool off due to the European war.

In 1940, the Japanese Army concentrated its main effort on smash Chiang Kai-shek's counteroffensive and mopping-up operations which extended to Nanning, Ichang and other areas south of the Yangtze River. These operations were highly successful. The policy of the Japanese Armed Forces during this year gradually shifted from operations to political strategy. The main points were as follows:

1. Non-expansion of operations area.


2. Promotion of pacification and peace preservation activities in occupied areas.
3. Cooperation in the growth of a new central government.
4. Undermine the fighting strength of Chiang Kai-shek's army through a tight sea blockade and effective interception of Chiang-aid routes from Burma, northern French Indo-China, Hongkong and Kwangchowan.

The Asama Maru Incident

Leaving San Francisco on 6 January 1940 for Yokohama via Honolulu, the NYK liner Asama Maru was stopped by a British cruiser at about 1250 hours on the 21st at a point 35 miles of, Nojima Zaki, Chiba Prefecture. In the face of the captain's protestations, an inspection party carried off 21 German passengers on the pretext of exercising Great Britain rights under international law, without giving any reason or even the name of the cruiser.

In connection with this incident Japan protested on the basis of Article 47, London Declaration, dated 1909, that only persons actually enlisted in the armed services of belligerent nations could be removed from the ships of neutral countries while Great Britain adhered to the broad interpretation that any male personnel 18 to 50 years of age and physically fit for military service could be taken as prisoners of war whether they were passengers or crew members.

This forceful action occurring off the coast of Japan made a deep impression on the government and people of Japan and further


added to anti-British sentiment. Moreover, the unsatisfactory results of the negotiations with and protest against Great Britain caused the public to accuse the newly-organized Yonai Cabinet of vacillation and incompetency and resulted in a more vigorous execution of political maneuvers by those dissatisfied with the policy of the Yonai Cabinet. However, in order to avoid involvement in a political plot the Japanese Navy did not take any concrete counter-measures during this incident but left diplomatic negotiations to the Foreign Ministry.

The Policy on China

Details of the establishment of the Wang Ching-wei regime and the negotiations therewith were given in Monograph No. 144. The new policy for adjusting diplomatic relations between Japan and China, decided by the Cabinet meeting on 8 January 1940, is cited in Appendix No. 1. No changes were made in fundamental policies emphasizing good neighbor relations, Joint anti-Comintern defense, economic cooperation and recognition of special collaboration areas.

On 30 March 1940 a new National Government under the Wang Ching-wei regime was established with the removal of the capital to Nanking. The Government proved weak in power and imperfect in its administrative structure. In mid-June of the same year the Japanese Government issued instructions to Abe, Minister Plenipotentiary, regarding the conclusion of a treaty covering the following points:

    1. The Japan-Manchukuo-China Joint Declaration. 


    2. Treaty determining the relations between Japan and China. 
        a. The Basic Treaty (The Treaty Relative to the Restoration  
           of Diplomatic Relations Between Japan and China) 
        b. The Annexed Protocol (Published). 
           (1) Recognition of special existing conditions.
           (2) Recognition and maintenance of status quo. 
           (3) Withdrawal of troops.
           (4) Indemnification of losses of Japanese residents
               and relief to Chinese refugees.
        c. Accompanying Economic Agreement (Published) 
           (1) General industrial cooperation.
           (2) North China, Mongolia.
           (3) Hainan Island.
           (4) Lower reaches of the Yangtze River.
           (5) Sino-Japanese joint concerns.
        d. Accompanying Agreement (Secret).
           (1) Diplomatic cooperation.
           (2) Adviser.
           (3) Stationing of troops for maintenance of public peace.
           (4) Military requests for transport.
           (5) Provision of facilities for occupation troops.
           (6) Aviation, meteorological observation, railroad, sea
               and river transportation and communications.
        e. Exchange of Official Documents (Secret). 


          (1) North China Political Committee.
          (2) Mongolian autonomous government.
          (3) Lower reaches of the Yangtze River.
          (4) Hainan Island Province.
          (5) Amoy Special Municipality. 

At that time, the new National Government, lacking in both military and financial strength as well as in administrative ability, particularly in military authority which constituted the basic strength of political administration, was ill-prepared to fulfill treaties as the Central Government. However, with a view toward contributing to the speedy over-all settlement of the China Incident in anticipation of the Chungking regime relaxing its resistance in view of the developments of the European war, Japan accelerated the restoration of normal diplomatic relations with the now regime and finally completed the negotiations on 31 August.

Then, after a partial revision of the draft, with Manchukuo participating in subsequent negotiations, the treaty was signed on 30 November and the joint declaration was issued.

Occupation of Northern French Indo-China

In the summer of 1938, the flow of Chiang-aid supplies through French Indo-China was taken up for discussion, but Japan's repeated requests to French Indo-China to stop these supplies were refused each time by the French Government. This greatly increased the tension between Japan and French Indo-China. On 17 June 1940, France


surrendered to Germany and on 20 June the French Indo-China authorities submitted to Japan's demands to ban the transit of Chiang-aid supplies and approved the dispatch of Japanese inspectors. Thereupon, Japan dispatched a Chiang-aid supplies inspection group, under the leadership of Major General Issaku Nishihara, to French Indo-China. They immediately began an investigation of the actual transport conditions, stationing inspectors at such key points as Langson, Haiphong, Laokay and Moncay.

Japan further desired to intercept effectively the traffic of Chiang-aid supplies by stationing troops in northern French Indo-China, also to secure bases there to facilitate bombing of the Burma Road and Chungking, and, if necessary, make preparations to carry forward land operations from northern French Indo-China to Kunming, in an attempt to bring the Chiang regime to its knees. General Nishihara carried on negotiations with Governor General Catroux, and later his successor Decoux, with regard to the entry of Japanese troops into French Indo-China, but the negotiations did not progress smoothly. Therefore, Foreign Minister Matsuoka conferred with Henri, French Ambassador to Japan, and after much difficulty, succeeded obtaining the consent of France to grant military facilities to Japan in French Indo-China. On 30 August, the basic Japan-French Indo-Chinese Agreement was finally concluded in Tokyo. This agreement was to become effective after details of the entry of Japanese forces into French Indo-China had been worked out by the local authorities. The basic agreement incorporated the following:


1. French Indo-China agreed to cooperate in Japan's economic and political aims in Asia.

2. French Indo-China agreed to the basing of Japanese troops in French Indo-China for the purpose of prosecuting their operations against Chiang Kai-shek. These bases were to be limited to the area bordering French Indo-China and China.

3. Japan would respect the sovereign rights of France and the territorial integrity of French Indo-China.

4. Details of the agreement insofar as entry of Japanese troops into French Indo-China was concerned, would be worked out by the local authorities.

The Emperor, who was especially concerned over the Japanese entry into northern French Indo-China, did not approve this agreement until he obtained assurance from the Army that, under no circumstances, would it resort to force in making an entry. However, through local misunderstandings, the group commanded by Lt. General Akito Nakamura in Kwangsi Province clashed with the French forces when they crossed the border on 23 September and the French were compelled to surrender after the Japanese forces attacked Langson. The Japanese troops were then able to proceed with their "friendly entry." Other Japanese army units began to land at Haiphong on 26 September. (Monograph No. 25 presents additional information on the entry of Japanese troops into French Indo-China.)

On 27 September, the Japanese and French Indo-Chinese Government issued the following joint statement:


With a view to contributing to the establishment of a new order in East Asia and the settlement of the China Incident, a meeting on problems of fundamental concern to French Indo-China was held in Tokyo during August, under amicable conditions, between Foreign Minister Matsuoka and Henri, French Ambassador to Japan. The Japanese Government has given the French Government assurance that it will respect the rights and interests of France in East Asia, especially the territorial integrity of French Indo-China and French sovereign rights in French Indo-China.

The French Government has consented to grant the Japanese Government special facilities for the Imperial Army and Navy in French Indo-China for the prosecution of operations. Moreover, negotiations to settle details concerning the provision Of military facilities were held in Hanoi between the French and Japanese military authorities and a satisfactory agreement was reached on 22 September.

In accordance with the agreement, Japanese forces proceeded to Hanoi on 5 October and powerful units advanced to Bachinh, east of Hanoi on the 10th. This advance was actually the first step toward the southward advance by the Japanese forces which set the stage for the Japanese entry into southern French Indo-China, America's all-out economic blockade against Japan and the outbreak of the Pacific War the following year. This should be regarded as a manifestation of the Japanese national policy decided on 27 July, namely, "The Principles to Cope with the Changing World Situation." France was unable to defend French Indo-China and was compelled to yield to Japan's demands.

Under the circumstances the attitude of the French authorities in southern French Indo-China was always antagonistic.

The occupation of French Indo-China gave the impression to the Allied world that the establishment of the Greater East Asia Co-


prosperity Sphere advocated by Japan was designed not only to build up a new order in East Asia based on the cooperation of Japan, Manchukuo and China, but also to establish a far greater coprosperity zone of East Asia, including French Indo-China and the Netherlands East Indies. This constituted one of the principal causes of the Pacific War.

The occupation of French Indo-China cut off the flow of the greater part of Chiang-aid supplies, and bombings of the Burma Road tightened the blockade. At the same time, air attacks on Kunming and Chungking were carried out more readily, but all this did not prove sufficiently effective to bring about the downfall of the Chiang regime. The land operation from northern French Indo-China to the Kunming area was not carried out as the Japanese Army was understrength and the operation was difficult, but from the viewpoint of political strategy, the character of French Indo-China changed completely when placed under a cooperative relationship with Japan. This placed Japan in a far more advantageous position, both economically and politically, to pursue her southward expansion policy. On the other hand, as it posed a serious threat to Singapore, the Philippines and the Netherlands East Indies, Great Britain and America viewed the situation with serious concern. The United States finally took steps to extend a $25,000,000 credit to the Chiang regime and placed an embargo on the exportation of scrap iron and steel to Japan. This brought the Pacific War another step closer.


Important National Policies

Decision on a General National Policy (27 July 1940)

With the establishment of the new Nanking Government in late March, the China Incident entered a stage where it was necessary to make new decisions on policy. On the European front, the German forces breaking a long silence, suddenly started an invasion of Holland and Belgium in early May. Their sweeping drive destroyed British and French forces at Dunkirk and caused France to surrender unconditionally on 17 June.

Germany's decisive victory made a deep impression on the Japanese who had entertained friendly feelings toward Germany since the signing of the Japanese-German-Italian Anti-Comintern Pact. Moreover, Germany gradually succeeded in her fifth-column actions within the Japanese Army by taking advantage of a favorable war situation in Europe and converting the Japanese Army into a motive power to hasten a tripartite alliance and establish a positive national policy. The Yonai Cabinet, adhering strictly to the policy of opposing the Tripartite Alliance and maintaining a prudent attitude toward Great Britain and the United States, was forced to resign on 16 July by a political plot of the Army wherein it refused to recommend a successor to War Minister Hata.

On 22 July, the second Konoye Cabinet was formed. Japan advanced toward a tripartite alliance and steered a course toward southward expansion, together with a resolute policy against America and Great Britain.


The national policy at that time was governed by "The Basic National Policy" decided by the Cabinet meeting on 26 July 1940 and "The Principles to Cope with the Changing World Situation" formulated by the Liaison Conference between Imperial General Headquarters and the Government on 27 July, the latter being of particular importance since it followed the proposals of Imperial General Headquarters. Circumstances leading up to the decision to accept "The Principles to Cope with the Changing World Situation" were as follows:

On 4 July 1940, chiefs of the 2d and 8th Sections of the Army General Staff accompanied by section members and Military Affairs Section members of the War Ministry, called on the Naval General Staff to submit a draft of "The Principles to Cope with the Changing World Situation" as an opinion agreed upon by both the Army General Staff and the War Ministry. This had already been submitted to the War Minister and the Assistant Chief of Army General Staff with the explanation:

The Army's estimate of the situation:

    1. The establishment of a European-African bloc by Germany  
       and Italy was inevitable. 

    2. Great Britain would oppose the German-Italian bloc using 
       India and Australia as rear bases to secure a supply 
       line in the South Pacific Ocean in cooperation with 

    3. Expansion of the American Navy would be completed in 
       several years and a strategically and economically 
       Anglo-American bloc would be formed in the south.

    4. If the above estimates proved correct, Japanese economy,
       which was greatly dependent upon Great Britain and 


       America, would be seriously affected and Japan would be 
       placed in a difficult position unless she decided    
       immediately to take the initiative in laying the 
       groundwork in the south. 

    5. Japan could not carry this out under existing conditions, 
       and the prerequisites to the successful execution of this 
       plan were: 

       a. Security from the menace of Soviet Russia. 
       b. Early settlement of the China Incident. 
       c. Political alliance with Germany and Italy. 

Japan must form an economically self-sufficient zone, including the Southern Area, establish a powerful political structure and institute a planned economy.

The Navy agreed with the Army's policy of strengthening the northern defense and advancing southward but disagreed with the policy of resorting to armed force. The Navy interpreted the Army's intentions as follows:

    1. The Army intended to settle the China Incident by making 
       huge concessions to China, at the same time shifting the       
       responsibility to the Navy by directing the military 
       efforts to the south. 

    2. The Army intended to strengthen the political alliance 
       with Germany and Italy and carry it toward a 
       Japanese-German-Italian military alliance. 

    3. The Army intended to wage war against Great Britain, 
       disregarding the importance of her relations with the 
       United States. 

    4. The Army overthrow the Yonai Cabinet by urging upon 
       a firm diplomatic policy toward Great Britain, the 
       strengthening of the internal situation, and speedy 
       war preparations to be completed by the end of August. 

"The Principles to Cope with Changing World Situation" was in substance as follows:



Japan will endeavor to cope with changes in the international situation and settle the China Incident as early as possible. At the same time, Japan will undertake to solve the problems of the Southern Area by continually availing herself of every opportunity to effect improvement in internal and international conditions. Pending settlement of the China Incident, the measures for the Southern Area will be decided after considering the world situation.

War preparations will be accelerated so as to be completed by the end of August.

Summary of Main Points:

    1. Destruction of Chiang-aid activities by third powers. 

    2. Political collaboration with Germany and Italy and 
       drastic revision of diplomatic relations with Soviet 
       Russia. Conflict with America will be avoided, but the 
       inevitable worsening of relations must be accepted. 
       Japanese forces will be used in French Indo-China. 

    3. The use of armed forces in the southern area will be upon 
       depending upon the domestic and foreign situation, but 
       the target will be limited to Great Britain, insofar as 

    4. Domestic policies to be pursued are: 

       Establishment of a powerful political structure. 

       Strengthening of the wartime structure through over-all 
       enforcement of the General Mobilization Law. 

       A maximum advance in imports to eliminate economic upon 
       Great Britain and America. 

       Adjustment of production expansion and replenishment of 

       Enhancement of national spirit and unification of public 
       opinion within the country. 

The Navy wished to strengthen political collaboration with Germany and
Italy, without concluding a tripartite alliance and continued dis- 


cussions and negotiations with the Army along these lines. Meanwhile, the Yonai Cabinet was overthrown by the political stratagem of the Army and the Second Konoye Cabinet was formed on 22 July. Immediately after its formation it held the First Liaison Conference between Imperial General Headquarters and the Government on 27 July and decided on "The Principles to Cope with the Changing World Situation," in the form that had been initiated by Imperial General Headquarters. (See Appendix 2.) Imperial General Headquarters' detailed comments on this policy are given in Appendix 3.

Perceiving that the war situation in Europe was definitely developing in favor of Germany and Italy and believing that the capitulation of Great Britain and the restoration of peace in Europe were imminent, the Japanese Army forcibly induced the Navy and the Government to put into writing the "Principles to Cope with the Changing World Situation" as a national policy, although there were many complications to overcome. The policy was so inconsistent that, in conversations between War and the Navy Ministers, they found themselves utterly in conflict with each other in their opinions. However, the Army, with its political influence, determined the actual policy of Japan, which was successively translated into such significant measures as the entry of Japanese troops into northern French Indo-China on 23 September and the conclusion of the Japan-Germany-Italy Tripartite Alliance on 27 September. These proved to be the turning points in the outbreak the Pacific War.


The Navy's Views on the "Principles to
Cope with the Changing World Situation"

The "Principles to Cope with the Changing World Situation" mentioned in the previous section was a national policy of great significance in regard to the beginning of the Pacific War, but between the Army, the Navy and the Government there was a great divergence of opinion in regard to this policy. The interpretation agreed upon and views of the Navy Central Authorities (the Navy Section of Imperial General Headquarters and Navy Ministry) as regards the policy were as follows:

The southward expansion policy was originally advocated by the Navy but it emphasized that the goal must be achieved by peaceful means, if at all possible, and the use of military force must be determined with great prudence.

Instances wherein Japan would resort to arms for her very existence were:

1. In case America imposed an all-out embargo upon exports to Japan and other third powers followed suit, thus rendering it impossible for Japan to acquire essential materials.

2. In case Great Britain and the United States cooperated to exert pressure upon Japan, and America began to use strategic points in British territories in the Pacific areas.

3. In case Great Britain or the United States independently took such measures which would constitute a direct threat to the existence of Japan, such as a large reinforcement of United States


military strength in the Philippine area, or a large reinforcement of Great Britain's military strength in East Asia.

4. In case it could be estimated that Great Britain could be defeated, that America would not open hostilities against Japan and that Great Britain and America were completely separated.

The Navy claimed it could not resort to force due to lack of war preparations. It stated that the use of force in the southern area would possibly develop into a large-scale war that would determine the fate of Japan. The Navy required far greater quantities of materials and labor than the Army to complete its war preparations, but the Army received far greater allocations of materials due to the China Incident. Under the circumstances, it was impossible to predict the time of completion of Navy preparations. The Navy was of the opinion that once war was declared against Great Britain, Japan would have to be prepared militaristically and psychologically to fight also the United States.

The Navy was certain of victory if the United States attempted an early decisive sea battle and a quick termination of war, but it had little confidence in Japan's staying power if the United States waged a protracted war.

If Japan waited for the inevitable expansion of the United States' war preparations, she would be overwhelmed. It would be better to start war before the United States was fully prepared.

At the same time, the Navy felt that this problem should be a great deal more thought before arriving at a final decision


as to whether or not to go to war with the United States on the basis of her war preparations.

From an operational point of view it was considered unwise to provoke Great Britain and the United States at that time, as it would only spur them on to step up their war preparations and crystallize their determination to fight.

The Navy's estimate of the situation stood in striking contrast to that of the Army. However, although the Government vigorously initiated domestic measures, it was completely dominated by the Army in executing its foreign policy.

Tripartite Alliance Pact

The First Phase

After the conclusion of the anti-Comintern Pact by Japan, Germany and Italy in November 1937, the policy of strengthening the Axis ties sounded the keynote to the Japanese diplomatic policy. Moreover, this policy was always enforced by the Japanese Army. What the real intention of the Army was and how it changed is not clear, but the Navy generally estimated it as follows: At first, the Army aimed at containing the Soviet Union, with the aid of Germany, by enforcing the Japanese policy toward Manchuria and China. However, with the protraction of the China Incident, Japan gradually became isolated internationally. Furthermore, it became obvious that the Incident could not be settled merely by containing the Soviet Union. The Army seemed to believe that the strengthening of the Axis ties would prevent Japan


from becoming isolated and would strengthen her determination to resist Great Britain and America and that this would ultimately contribute to the settlement of the Incident. Thus, the Japanese Army, fortified by enormous political powers, took every possible step to make the government and the people thoroughly recognize the necessity for strengthening the Axis ties.

The Japanese Navy for the most part had no objection to the strengthening of anti-Comintern ties, but warned that such a course might bring about conflict with Great Britain and America. From the standpoint of reinforcing its war preparations, however, the Navy welcomed the fact that the Army was gradually placing importance on the attitude of Great Britain and the United States, as well as on that of the Soviet Union. This was the situation at the time General Itagaki, War Minister in the first Konoye Cabinet, proposed the ratification of the Tripartite Pact. The Navy strongly objected to this pact on the grounds that it would antagonize the United States.

At the time of the Hiranuma Cabinet, the Tripartite Alliance was discussed at the Five Ministers' Conference. Again, the Navy strongly objected to it stating that Japan's automatic participation in the war in the event of an attack or, any one of the signatories by other countries would be contrary to the principles of the Imperial Armed Forces. Perceiving the particularly serious effect the Tripartite Alliance would have upon the United States, Admiral Yonai, Navy Minister, insisted on the issuance of a government statement to the effect that the Tripartite Alliance did not in any way


represent a threat to the United States. To this the Japanese Army, as well as Germany, strongly objected. The ostensible reason for the downfall of the Hiranuma Cabinet was that the Cabinet was unable to cope with the complicated international situation following the conclusion of the Russo-German Non-Aggression Pact, but it is an undeniable fact that the basic reason was the disagreement among the Cabinet members concerning the Tripartite Pact. Thus, the draft of the Tripartite Alliance Pact which was drawn up as a measure against the Soviet Union lost its significance and failed to materialize as such. However, the basic policy of strengthening the Axis ties in the following Abe and Yonai Cabinets continued still quite strongly. The Army, which had encountered much difficulty in its efforts to settle the China Incident, keenly felt the necessity to change the situation by adopting new measures and gradually succeeded in guiding public opinion toward a speedy conclusion of the Pact by mobilizing officials in the foreign and home ministries, who shared the same view. With the political situation became increasingly unstable from day to day, and neither the Abe Cabinet nor the Yonai Cabinet were able to carry out their strong domestic and foreign policies. Incompatible with the situation, these cabinets were inevitably short lived. Especially it was obvious that the resignation of the Yonai Cabinet was due to the opposition the Army created by maneuvers of the elements demanding an immediate conclusion of the Pact.

The Second Phase

As mentioned earlier, as soon as the Second Konoye Cabinet was


formed on 22 July 1940, "The Principles to Cope with the Changing World Situation" was speedily decided on at the Liaison Conference between the Imperial General Headquarters and the Government. The Axis ties between Japan, Germany and Italy were strengthened in accordance with the basic national policy decided on 27 July. However, the Navy strongly opposed the conclusion of the Tripartite Alliance Pact fearing its effect on Japanese-American relations. With Germany's failure in her first large-scale air attack against Great Britain, the Army too began to show less desire to conclude the pact. On the other hand, the Japanese Government and people advocated the of the Axis ties and, on 1 August, Foreign Minister Matsuoka invited Otto, German Ambassador to Japan, to secretly sound out the intentions of Germany. However, no progress was made relative to this suggestion until the arrival in Japan of Stahmer, Special and Confidential Adviser to Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, sent by Ribbentrop on 23 August.

As soon as Minister Stahmer arrived in Japan on 7 September he entered into direct negotiations with Foreign Minister Matsuoka and the problem of strengthening the Axis ties made rapid progress. As a result of these talks, held on three occasions between Matsuoka and Stahmer, the treaty draft was outlined. After exchange of opinions between Japanese and German officials the draft was completed and a final decision was reached at a Liaison Conference, which was held in the presence of the Emperor on 19 September. It was marked by swift action with Foreign Minister Matsuoka playing a leading role.


As for the Navy, on 5 September, Admiral Koshiro Oikawa was appointed Navy Minister to replace ex-Minister Yoshiba who had suffered a severe nervous breakdown caused by the tension and conflict created by the political situation. In the Naval High Command, Vice Adm. Nobutake Kondo as Vice Chief of the Naval General Staff was assistant to HIH Prince Fushimi, Chief of the Naval General Staff. At that time the problem of the Tripartite Alliance was being discussed in secrecy by top-level officials of the Foreign, Army and Navy Ministries. The reason, therefore, the Navy changed its stand and concurred in the opinion of Foreign Minister Matsuoka cannot be defined, due to the lack of official documents.

However, the Navy at all times would seriously consider the recommendations of a responsible diplomatic specialist. It is interesting to note that when the question of the alliance first arose in 1939, Mr. Arita, the then Foreign Minister, opposed the alliance. As this is considered to be a most important and delicate point in the history of the Japanese Navy, statements and discussions of the responsible persons at that time are given below. The details of the Tripartite Alliance Pact which was concluded on 27 September are given in Appendix 4.

Estimates by the Japanese Government

As Prime Minister Konoye, Foreign Minister Matsuoka and War Minister Tojo, who played the most important roles at that time, have all passed away, it is necessary to depend upon the proceedings of the Investigation Committee meeting of the Privy Council which was


held on 26 September to probe this matter. The outline of the proceedings was as follows:

a. Gist of an address by Prime Minister Konoye:

At this time, with the China Incident not yet settled, the United States of America has recently taken a firm attitude toward Japan. The attitudes of the Chungking Government and governments of other nations hostile to Japan are influenced thereby. As a result, the international position of Japan has become increasingly difficult. To tide over this difficulty, it is necessary for Japan to strengthen her international situation by promoting cooperation between the nations sharing a common interest under existing conditions. Not only Germany and Italy but also Japan hopes to avoid conflict with the United States of America. Sharing this common interest, the Japanese Government, after a thorough study, has drawn up the treaty draft for strengthening the ties with Germany and Italy.

The original aim of this treaty is the maintaining of peace, but we must be prepared for any eventualities. Moreover, as this is an unprecedented matter of grave importance on which the destiny of our nation hinges, it is my sincere hope that a decision will be made after careful consideration.

b. Summary of the explanation by Foreign Minister Matsuoka:

This treaty springs from the aim of the German officials to avoid intervention by America in the war in Europe as reflected in their statement that participation by Japan in the European war is not essential, and also that Japan should avoid conflict with America. The Japanese policy of nonintervention in the European war may be affected by the treaty in the future, but it can be maintained for the present. The United States, immediately after establishing joint defense with Canada, has intervened in even trivial matters in the American-Japanese relationship in an almost unbearable manner.

The United States of America is preparing positions for the envelopment of Japan by actively and rapidly building strong military bases in Australia, New Zealand, India, Burma and at the key points of British possessions in the southern area, besides the military installations already established or being in the Pacific Ocean and the Southern areas. It has been feared that the United States, perceiving the depletion of the national strength of Japan caused by the war of attrition in China, might resort to threats. Thus there is apprehension that the improvement of diplomatic relations between the United


States of America and Japan in a courteous or friendly manner is entirely out of the question and that relations will become increasingly aggravated.

In this instant it is my belief that there is no alternative but to take a resolute attitude. If this be the case, the close cooperation with as many countries as possible to solidify our resolute attitude and the declaration and notification thereof within the country and abroad as soon as possible to effect resistance against America, will be an urgent diplomatic question. However, this Ministry, while keeping a watchful eye on the reaction to and effects of such measures, is determined to seize any opportunity that may contribute to the improvement of diplomatic relations with America. With an extremely firm determination, however, our resolute attitude of resistance must be clearly demonstrated to the whole world.

Outline of debate:

The privy councilors asked searching and profound questions. Questioned in particular about the chances of operational success and prospects for procurement of materials, particularly gasoline and steel, if the worst came to the worst and Japan and America went to war, Tojo, Minister of War, Oikawa, Minister of the Navy and Hoshino, Chairman of the Planning Board, in turn answered as follows:

Tojo, Minister of War:

I will answer chiefly from the Army's standpoint. In the event of the worst situation, as only a portion of the Army's strength will be committed to the operations against the United States, there is no need for concern in regard to equipping this force. However, the operation against the United States cannot be planned without considering eventual warfare with Soviet Russia. Accordingly the adjustment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Soviet Russia is a very important problem. If the adjustment is carried out successfully, the burden of military preparations may be considered to be lightened considerably. Nevertheless, Japan's Army preparations must not be neglected in view of Soviet Russia's character. It is hoped that the China Incident can be settled before this situation develops, by utilizing this treaty effectively.


Oikawa, Minister of Navy:

Since war preparations of our existing fleets have now been completed, America can never defeat us in an early decisive battle. In the event of a prolonged war, however, we must make full preparations to cope with the American Navy expansion plan. The Navy is now working on an airtight policy.

Hoshino, Chairman of the Planning Board:

As I explained yesterday (Hoshino had given a detailed explanation of the Materials Mobilization Plan at the Privy Council's regular meeting the day before) our country, determined to achieve self-sufficiency in various materials, has been making preparations for several years. As we now depend upon Great Britain and America for 1.9 billion yen out of a total of 2.1 billion yen for annual imports, an airtight policy must be formulated in consideration of the event wherein Article 3 of the treaty will be enforced to counteract the mounting economic pressure upon us. As regards iron, this year's production is estimated at 5,200,000 tons or at the worst, 4,000,000 tons. The quantity of iron presently used for armament, as well as for munitions, is 1,500,000 tons. Iron other than for the above, is being used to increase production as well as to meet private and government requirements. If civil and government requirements for iron are restricted in the event the import of scrap iron and iron material stops, there will be no difficulty in supplying the requirements for war preparations. As regards nonferrous metals, procurement will not be so simple as in the case of iron, but there is no need for concern, since every effort is being made to gather these metals from all parts of the world. The most important item is gasoline. At present we are depending upon America for a great quantity of gasoline, and aviation gasoline, in particular, is nearly all imported from there. Accordingly, efforts must be exerted to increase domestic production of gasoline and, at the same time, measures must be taken to obtain it from countries other than America. Recently a considerable quantity of aviation oil has been stocked. Nevertheless, in the event of a prolonged war with the United States, unlike the case of iron and other metals, the achievement of self-sufficiency in gasoline with the three countries of Japan, Manchuria and China is impossible. Therefore, it is necessary to secure as soon as possible gasoline rights from the Netherland East Indies, North Sakhalin and elsewhere. This point came into question also at the recent conference with German authorities. For your information, at present, peaceful negotiations on the acquisition of gasoline are under way in the Netherland East Indies.


Oikawa, Minister of Navy:

The Navy has been storing large quantities of gasoline in preparation for such a contingency.

Tojo Minister of War:

In regard to materials for the Army, preparations have been made to hold out for a long time. In the event of a prolonged war, oil for aircraft and mechanized forces must be taken into consideration.

Oikawa, Minister of Navy:

Since the manufacture of synthetic gasoline has just been initiated, emergency use thereof is not considered possible. Accordingly, there is no alternative but to obtain gasoline from the Netherlands East Indies or North Sakhalin by peaceful means.

If this proves successful procurement of sufficient gasoline is very hopeful. Consequently, the adjustment of diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia is considered important even when viewed from this angle. On the other hand, the Navy must consider the conservation of oil in anticipation of a prolonged war. In recent years, the Navy also has established a special high octane gasoline research department and has been undertaking the manufacture of this gasoline by the Navy's own process.

Other important questions and answers were:

Question by Privy Councilor: "We have our misgivings about the gasoline problem. As we still have doubts in our minds, we request your clarification to set us at ease."

To which the following answer was given repeatedly:

"Both the Army and Navy have a fairly large stock of gasoline and prospects for acquisition from abroad are hopeful."

Question: "In the event the conditions described in Article 3 of the treaty, namely in the event of commencement of hostilities between Japan and America, what military aid is Germany capable of


rendering to Japan?"

Foreign Minister Matsuoka answered that this question was discussed in negotiations with the German authorities. German, had stated they would supply Japan with new weapons before the conditions prescribed in Article 3 of the treaty came into being. Moreover, in the event of the outbreak of war between Japan and America, German, would divert America's attention to the European theater.

Minister of War Tojo stated that supplies of excellent military equipment were being obtained from Germany by way of Siberia with the consent of Soviet Russia.

Minister of the Navy Oikawa then stated that his views were generally in accord with the Army in regard to assistance that could be expected from Germany.

Question: "If war between Japan and the United States is inevitable, diplomatic emphasis must be placed upon either Germany or the Anglo-American alliance. Nevertheless, it is realized that the conclusion of this treaty may hasten hostilities between Japan and the United States. We wish to know whether the Prime Minister is confident of being able to tide over the worst situation wherein shortages in military supplies and materials in general may arise."

Prime Minister Konoye answered: "The basic concept of this treaty has always been the avoidance of conflict between Japan and the United States. However, a humble attitude will only prompt the United States to become domineering, therefore, a demonstration of strength is necessary. If the worst comes to the worst, the


Government, with unwavering determination, must take proper measures through diplomatic negotiations and domestic administration."

Question: "At this time when Japan still has not solved the China Incident, the assumption of obligations to support Germany and Italy in the event of America's entry into the European war is indeed a heavy burden upon us. On the other hand, there is little possibility that hostilities will break out between Japan and the United States. Therefore, we wish to know if this treaty has become extremely unilateral."

Foreign Minister Matsuoka replied: "You may safely consider that there is a 50-50 chance that the United States will enter the war and that Japan and the United States will go to war. Therefore, I do not consider the treaty to be unilateral."

Question: "If the situation takes a turn for the worse as a result of the conclusion of this treaty, what aid is Germany capable rendering to Japan? Moreover, when the Japanese Navy renders aid to Germany and Italy, what aid is to be offered?"

Foreign Minister Matsuoka answered: "The question of what aid can be rendered must be studied thoroughly at the meeting of the joint military committee."

Question: "War between Japan and the United States is considered inevitable, whether or not this treaty is concluded. Therefore, must we not watch closely the expansion of the United States Navy and make our preparations accordingly?"

Minister of Navy Oikawa replied: "There is a good chance of


victory if speedy decisive action is taken against the United States at this time. At present, various armament plans for the future are being formulated."

Most of the answers were noncommittal and no exhaustive discussions were held. At midnight on 26 September, the treaty was unanimously approved at the Privy Council meeting in the presence of the Emperor and on the 27th it was signed in Berlin.

Briefly, the situation was that no real scientific research or systematic preparations were undertaken to wage war against the United States; only a wishful estimate was made - an estimate that called for prevention of war with the United States by demonstrating a resolute attitude. In other words, our diplomacy was a complete bluff.

Views of the Japanese Navy

In answer to the Emperor, when the Navy consented under duress to the Tripartite Alliance, Admiral Prince Fushimi, then chief of the Navy General Staff stated, "War with the United States must be avoided. The chances of victory cannot be estimated." Kondo, Vice Chief of the Naval General Staff then stated, "A victory such as we achieved in the Russo-Japanese War would be difficult and, even if the war is won, we are certain to sustain heavy losses." The Japanese Navy was then without a operations plan against America, Great Britain, the Netherlands East Indies or China nor was it making any study of such a large-scale operation. It was evident, therefore, that the Japanese Navy was neither prepared for nor desirous of engaging in war with Great Britain


and America.

The Japanese Navy, while desiring to strengthen the Axis relations and pursue peaceful southward expansion was, until the Yonai Cabinet collapsed, still strongly opposed to concluding the Tripartite Alliance against Great Britain and America. As there were no available records to show clearly why the Japanese Navy finally consented to the conclusion of the Pact, after having so strongly opposed it, in an endeavor to obtain more detailed information, the 2d Demobilization Bureau, in January 1946, requested former Minister of the Navy Oikawa and Admirals Yoshida, Toyoda, Kondo, Sawamoto and Inoue, as well as about 20 others concerned with the Navy Ministry and Naval General Staff, to assemble for discussions and conduct a series of round-table conferences at which opinions were exchanged freely. The data obtained as a result was generally as follows:

1. It was evident that the Army and Navy placed widely different interpretations on the "Principles to Cope with the Changing World Situation" from which the Tripartite Alliance originated. While the Army interpreted "strengthening the Political Unity between Japan, Germany and Italy" as a step toward a military alliance which had been advocated by the Army, the Navy's attitude was that it was to "strengthen the political unity short of an alliance." Furthermore, the Army desired to make the southward advance by force, even to the extent of waging war against Great Britain and the United, while the Navy desired to advance peacefully toward the southern area. Because of the Army's dominance of the Government, the


national policy was developed with almost complete disregard for the Navy's attitude.

2. Hitherto, the Navy's opposition to the Tripartite Alliance lay primarily in the obligation to automatically enter into war. Without the condition of "automatic entry into the war," the Navy could find no reason for opposing the conclusion of the Alliance. According to the text of the Alliance, the signatories pledged "every political, economic and military assistance to each other," but since the phrase "entry into the war" did not appear in the text, it was interpreted to mean that there was no obligation to enter into war. Furthermore, Foreign Minister Matsuoka explained in this regard that the choice between peace and war was a prerogative of the Emperor and the matter would be decided independently by each nation and that complete understanding on this point had been reached with the German Special Envoy Stahmer. As a result, the Navy's opposition weakened and the matter was pushed through. Japan's principle aims at that time were to settle the China Incident, prevent isolation and to prevent the United States from entering the war while Japan pushed forward her policy of expansion in the southern area. At the same time, Germany was to carry out the war against England and France and to prevent the United States from entering the war.

The fact seemed to be overlooked that if Japan took an aggressive attitude toward the United States, the United States would be compelled to resort to equally aggressive measures, thus aggravating the relations between the two countries to a degree where compromise


would be impossible.

Feeling between the Army and Navy at that time was particularly strong and the Army desired the Navy to state clearly if it believed that it could not wage a successful war against Great Britain and the United States. The Navy, however, felt there was a distinct difference between the statement that "we cannot wage war successfully" and their contention that it was "inadvisable to wage war."

From the beginning of the China Incident it had been the policy to give priority to the Army in regard to budget appropriations and allocation of materials. Personnel were also affected by this priority system. This affected the Navy's thinking, as it was felt that should the Navy's policy of expansion south be accepted, they would again be given top priority. At the same time, the Army contended that if the Navy opposed war with Great Britain and the United States, then they had no need for budget appropriations or materials.

Foreign Minister Matsuoka and Minister of War Tojo were both firm supporters of the Alliance, although there were indications that Prime Minister Konoye adopted a passive attitude. In contrast to the prolonged war in China (settlement of which the people were led to believe was being obstructed by Great Britain and the United States) the victories of Germany and Italy in Europe naturally swayed the attitude of the Japanese people, who advocated a strong and firm attitude toward the United States. Feeling ran so high that the Navy found it impossible to withstand pressure to ratify the pact.

With the report of the conclusion of the Tripartite Pact on


27 September, President Roosevelt held a Cabinet meeting to discuss the pact. Secretary of State Cordell Hull issued a statement declaring that the new treaty was merely the confirmation of a fait accompli and that the necessary measures had already been integrated into United States policy to cope with the situation. American newspapers reported that the treaty was a sign indicating that the German war against Great Britain was not progressing according to plan and was aimed to raise the morale of the German people. The papers further reported that the treaty aimed at preventing the United States from the European war by dividing its attention between the Atlantic and the Pacific. They stated it was also an attempt to curtail United States' aid to England and to repress United States' resistance to Japanese moves to control East Asia.

Immediately upon Japanese occupation of the northern part of French Indo-China, the United States State Department condemned the move as an aggressive and unlawful action supported by the Alliance, and, at the end of September, prohibited the export of scrap iron to Japan. Moreover, in early October, American residents in China were advised to evacuate.

The finding of these conferences was that the provoking of the large-scale war feared by the Navy could be traced to the signing of the Tripartite Alliance.

In February 1953, in an endeavor to clarify the Japanese Navy's position in regard to the Tripartite Pact and to show the tremendous pressure brought to bear by the Army which finally compelled the Navy


to reluctantly agree to the Pact, Captain Toshikazu Ohmae tendered the following statement:

In early May 1939, the Japanese Army began to insist upon the conclusion of the Tripartite Pact. General Itagaki, Army Minister, strongly supported by the Army-dominated Premier Hiranuma, emphasized the Army's attitude at a Cabinet meeting on 9 May. As Admiral Yonai, Navy Minister, was equally emphatic in his opposition to the Pact, no decision could be reached at the meeting.

Some Army circles regarded the Navy as Public Enemy No 1 and rumors were spread that an Army unit would attempt to occupy the Navy Department in an endeavor to bring about an early Cabinet decision to ratify the Pact. After 9 May, Army gendarmes were ordered to watch Admiral Yonai and Vice Admiral Yamamoto (Vice Minister for the Navy and the strongest opposer of the Pact) under the guise of acting as an escort.

The Navy promptly established a plan to defend the Navy Department. One battalion of the Naval Land Combat Force was alerted at Yokosuka to be ready for immediate action and machine guns were installed in the Navy Department building. Guards stationed in the Department were armed with pistols and swords. These conditions prevailed until the latter part of August 1939, when Admirals Yonai and Yamamoto were forced to resign.

At this time I was a member of the Naval Affairs Bureau and was responsible for the defense of Navy installations through-out the Japanese Empire.

To further emphasize the circumstances which led the Japanese Navy to agree to the Pact, Captain Ohmae prepared a statement giving the main points of conferences, he held with Admiral Kondo, then Vice Chief of the Naval Staff and Admiral T. Takata, Chief of 1st Section of the Navy Affairs Bureau on 17 February 1953 (Appendix 5). A written statement to show the pressure brought to bear on the Navy at that time was promised by Admiral Kondo, but he passed away suddenly 20 February 1953.


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