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History of Japan
Part 2

War with China

On July 7, 1937, a Chinese patrol clashed with Japanese troops on the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing. Using the incident as a pretext to begin hostilities, the Japanese army in Manchuria moved troops into the area, precipitating another Sino-Japanese war, although it was never actually declared. A Japanese force quickly overran northern China. By the end of 1937 the Japanese navy had completed a blockade of almost the entire Chinese coast. The army advanced into eastern and southern China throughout 1937 and 1938, capturing, successively, Shanghai, Suzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Guangzhou (Canton), and Hankou, and forcing the Chinese army into the west. A Japanese force occupied the island of Hainan. Protests by foreign governments concerning property owned by their nationals and mistreatment by Japanese troops of foreigners resident in China, were, in effect, ignored by the empire. By the end of 1938 the war had reached a virtual stalemate. The Japanese army was checked by the mountains of central China, behind which the Chinese waged guerrilla warfare against the invaders. Japan, meanwhile, was subjected to a controlled war economy. In 1937 a cabinet headed by Prince Konoye Fumimaro relegated the entire conduct of the war, without government interference, to military and naval leaders.

World War II (1939-1945)

The beginning of World War II in Europe, in September 1939, gave Japan new opportunity for aggression in Southeast Asia. These aggressive acts were prefaced by a series of diplomatic arrangements. In September 1940 the empire concluded a tripartite alliance with Germany and Italy, the so-called Rome-Berlin Axis, pledging mutual and total aid for a period of ten years. Japan considered, however, that a 1939 neutrality pact between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) had released the empire from any obligation incurred by the 1936 anti-Communist alliance. In September 1941, therefore, Japan signed a neutrality pact with the USSR, thus protecting the northern border of Manchuria. A year before, with the consent of the German-sponsored Vichy government of France, Japanese forces occupied French Indochina. At the same time Japan tried to obtain economic and political footholds in the Netherlands East Indies. These acts in Indochina and the East Indies contributed to increasing hostility between Japan and the United States. The protection of American property in eastern Asia had been a source of friction since the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. Continued protests from Joseph Clark Grew, then U.S. ambassador to Japan, were fruitless. In October 1941, General Tojo Hideki, who was militantly anti-American, became the Japanese prime minister and minister of war. Negotiations aimed at settling the differences between the two countries continued in Washington throughout November, even after the decision for war had been made in Tokyo.

Attack on Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, without warning and while negotiations between American and Japanese diplomats were still in progress, Japanese carrier-based airplanes attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the main U.S. naval base in the Pacific.
Simultaneous attacks were launched by the Japanese army, navy, and air force against the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, Midway Island, Hong Kong, British Malaya, and Thailand. On December 8 the Congress of the United States declared war on Japan, as did all Allied powers except the USSR. For about a year following the successful surprise attacks, Japan maintained the offensive in Southeast Asia and the islands of the South Pacific. The empire designated eastern Asia and its environs as the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" and made effective propaganda of the slogan "Asia for the Asians." Moreover, nationalistic elements in many of the countries of eastern Asia gave tacit and, in some cases, active support to the Japanese, because they saw an apparent way to free themselves from Western imperialism. In December 1941, Japan invaded Thailand, forcing the government to conclude a treaty of alliance. Japanese troops occupied Burma, British Malaya, Borneo, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands East Indies. By May 1942 the Philippines were in Japanese hands. Striking toward Australia and New Zealand, Japanese forces landed in New Guinea, New Britain (now part of Papua New Guinea), and the Solomon Islands. A Japanese task force also invaded and occupied Attu, Agattu, and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands off the Alaskan coast of North America. Ultimately, however, the war became a naval struggle for control of the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean.

The Tide Turns

The tide of battle began to change in 1942, when an Allied naval and air force contained a Japanese invasion fleet in the Battle of the Coral Sea between New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. A month later a larger Japanese fleet was defeated in the Battle of Midway. Using combined operations of ground, naval, and air units under command of the American General Douglas MacArthur, Allied forces fought northward from island to island in the South Pacific, invading and driving out the Japanese. In July 1944, after the fall of Saipan, a major Japanese base in the Mariana Islands, the Japanese leaders realized that Japan had lost the war. Tojo was forced to resign, weakening the hold of the military oligarchy. In November 1944 the United States began a series of major air raids over Japan by B-29 Superfortress bombers based on Saipan. In early 1945, with a fierce battle victory at Iwo Jima, the United States gained an air base about 1200 km (about 750 mi) from Japan. During the same period Allied forces under the British admiral Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, defeated the Japanese armies in Southeast Asia. In the next four months, from May through August, bombing attacks devastated Japanese communications, industry, and what was left of the navy. These attacks were climaxed on August 6, 1945, by the dropping of the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. Two days later, on August 8, the USSR declared war on Japan, and on August 9 a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Soviet forces invaded Manchuria, northern Korea, and Karafuto. The Allied powers had agreed during the Potsdam Conference that only unconditional surrender would be acceptable from the Japanese government. On August 14 Japan accepted the Allied terms, signing the formal surrender aboard the American battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2.

Dissolution of Empire

The United States Army was designated, by the Allied powers, as the army of occupation in the Japanese home islands. Japan was stripped of its empire. Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, Taiwan, and Hainan were returned to China. The USSR, by virtue of occupation, held on to the Kuril Islands and Karafuto (which again became known as Sakhalin) and the control of Outer Mongolia; Lüshun and the South Manchurian Railway were placed under the joint control of the USSR and China. All the former Japanese mandated islands in the South Pacific were occupied by the United States under a United Nations (UN) trusteeship. On August 11, 1945, after the Japanese offered to surrender, Douglas MacArthur was appointed Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) occupying Japan. Representatives of China, the USSR, and Great Britain were named to an Allied Council for Japan, sitting in Tokyo, to assist MacArthur. Broad questions of occupation policy became the province of the Far Eastern Commission, sitting in Washington, D.C., representing the United States, Great Britain, the USSR, Australia, Canada, China, France, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the Philippines. A number of Japanese wartime leaders were tried for war crimes by an 11-nation tribunal that convened in Tokyo on May 3, 1946, and closed on November 12, 1948.

American Occupation

The American occupation of the Japanese islands was in no way resisted. The objectives of the occupation policy were declared to be, basically, the democratization of the Japanese government and the reestablishment of a peacetime industrial economy sufficient for the Japanese population. MacArthur was directed to exercise his authority through the emperor and existing government machinery as far as possible. Among other Allied objectives were the dissolution of the great industrial and banking trusts, the assets of which were seized in 1946 and later liquidated through SCAP. A program of land reform, designed to give the tenant farmers an opportunity to purchase the land they worked, was in operation by 1947, and an education program along democratic lines was organized. Women were given the franchise in the first postwar Japanese general election in April 1946, and 38 women were elected to the Japanese diet. Subsequently the diet completed the draft of a new constitution, which became effective in May 1947. The rehabilitation of the Japanese economy was more difficult than the reorganization of the government. The scarcity of food had to be offset by imports from the Allied powers and from the United States in particular. Severe bombings during the war had almost nullified Japanese industrial capacity. By the beginning of 1949 aid to Japan was costing the United States more than $1 million a day. Beginning in May 1949 work stoppages took place in various Japanese industries, notably coal mining. The government accused the Communist party, which had polled 3 million votes in a recent national election, of instigating the strike movement for political purposes, and MacArthur concurred in this view. Subsequently the government launched a large-scale investigation of Communist activities. MacArthur's labor policies were sharply criticized in June 1949 by the Soviet member of the Allied Control Council. In his reply, MacArthur accused the USSR of fomenting disorder in Japan through the Communist party and of "callous indifference" in repatriating Japanese prisoners of war. For the next year communism and repatriation were dominant issues in national politics. The Soviet Union announced in April 1950 that, excluding approximately 10,000 war criminals, all prisoners (94,973) had been returned to Japan, but according to Japanese records more than 300,000 prisoners were still in custody of the USSR. Allied negotiations during 1950 relative to a Japanese peace treaty were marked by basic differences between the United States and the Soviet Union on several issues, especially whether China should participate in the drafting of the document. In May the American statesman John Foster Dulles, adviser to the U.S. secretary of state, was named to prepare the terms of the treaty. More than a year of consultations and negotiations with and among the Allied powers, Japan, and East Asian nations that had fought against Japan culminated, on July 12, 1951, in the publication of the draft treaty. The USSR, which had been consulted also, maintained that the document was conducive to the resurgence of Japanese militarism. The U.S. government invited 55 countries to attend the peace conference. Nationalist China (Taiwan) and the People's Republic of China were not invited. The peace conference opened in San Francisco in early September. Of the nations invited, India, Burma, and Yugoslavia refused to attend. During the conference discussion was limited to the previously prepared treaty text, a procedure that nullified Soviet attempts to reopen negotiations on its various provisions. Forty-nine countries, including Japan, signed the treaty; the USSR, Czechoslovakia, and Poland refused to do so.

The Peace Treaty, 1951

By the terms of the treaty Japan renounced all claims to Korea, Taiwan, the Kurils, Sakhalin, and former mandated islands and relinquished any special rights and interests in China and Korea; the right of Japan to defend itself and enter into collective security arrangements was recognized; and Japan accepted in principle the validity of reparations claims, to be paid in goods and services in view of the country's insufficient financial resources. At the same time, the United States and Japan signed a bilateral agreement providing for the maintenance of U.S. military bases and armed forces in and around Japan to protect the disarmed country from aggression or from large-scale internal disturbances. Meanwhile, MacArthur had been relieved of his post as SCAP in April 1951. Lieutenant General Matthew Bunker Ridgway, who was then commander of the UN forces in Korea, succeeded him. The United States terminated economic aid to Japan at the end of June, but the detrimental effect of this action on the Japanese economy was largely offset by American military procurement orders for the Korean War, then raging.
The country's economic problems stemmed mainly from the wartime loss of overseas markets, especially the Chinese mainland. Recognizing the importance of the Chinese market, the United States in October granted Japan the right to carry on limited trade with mainland China. On April 28, 1952, the Japanese peace treaty became effective, and full sovereignty was restored to Japan. By the terms of the Japanese-American treaty of 1951, U.S. troops remained in Japan as security forces. The Japanese government concluded treaties of peace or renewed diplomatic relations during 1952 with Taiwan, Burma, India, and Yugoslavia. The question of rearmament was widely debated throughout 1952. The government was reluctant to commit itself in favor of rebuilding the country's defenses, mainly because of economic difficulties and legal obstacles (in the Japanese constitution of 1947 war is renounced "forever"). After heated debate the diet in July 1952 approved a bill to suppress subversive activities of organized groups, including the Communists. The Communist party itself was not outlawed, however. In general elections on October 1, the first since the end of the occupation, Yoshida Shigeru, leader of the Liberal party, who had headed the cabinet since 1949, was again named prime minister.

Postwar Foreign Relations: United States

In March 1953, Prime Minister Yoshida, after losing a vote of confidence on proposals for increased centralization of the school system and the police force, scheduled new elections. The electorate went to the polls in April and again returned the Liberals to power. Yoshida was then renamed prime minister. During 1953 the U.S. government, seeking further to safeguard the country against possible Communist aggression, actively encouraged Japan to rearm. In August the two countries signed a military-aid treaty that contained provision for the manufacture of Japanese arms according to American specifications. In a joint statement in September, Prime Minister Yoshida and Shigemitsu Mamoru, Progressive party leader, officially recommended that Japan rearm for self-defense. Negotiations with the U.S. government led to the signing of a mutual-defense pact by the two nations in March 1954. Prime Minister Yoshida's policy of close collaboration with the United States was subjected to strong criticism by dissidents within the Liberal party during the second half of 1954. In late November the insurgent Liberals formed the Japan Democratic party. Prime Minister Yoshida, who was removed as head of the Liberal party a few days later, resigned the premiership in early December after failing to muster a majority in the diet. Subsequently, by virtue of Socialist party support, the Democratic party leader Hatoyama Ichiro was elected prime minister. He promised, in exchange for Socialist support, to dissolve the diet in January 1955 and hold national elections. The Democratic party failed to win a majority in the diet in the election held in February 1955, but with Liberal support Hatoyama was returned as prime minister. The Democratic party and the Liberal party merged in November of that year, giving the government an absolute majority in the diet.

Postwar Foreign Relations: USSR

In October 1956 the USSR and Japan agreed to end the technical state of war that had existed between the two countries since August 1945. The agreement provided for the reestablishment of normal diplomatic relations, for the repatriation of Japanese prisoners of war still remaining in the USSR, for the effectuation of fishing treaties negotiated earlier in the year, for Soviet support of Japanese entry into the UN, and for the return to Japan of certain small islands off its northern coasts on the conclusion of a formal Soviet-Japanese peace treaty. On December 18 the UN General Assembly voted unanimously to admit Japan to the United Nations. Two days later Ishibashi Tanzan, the minister of international trade and industry, succeeded Hatoyama as prime minister. While maintaining close relations with the United States, Ishibashi sought to expand trade with the USSR and China as a means of reducing unemployment. In February 1957, Prime Minister Ishibashi resigned from his post because of poor health. The diet elected his former foreign minister, Kishi Nobusuke, to succeed him. In the same month agreements were signed ending the state of war with Czechoslovakia and Poland. Japan agreed in November to pay $230 million to Indonesia as World War II reparations. In addition, the Indonesian trade debt of $177 million to Japan was canceled.
Japan became a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council in January 1958. The House of Representatives was dissolved by Prime Minister Kishi in April, and elections were held the following month.

Domestic Politics

In October 1958 the Socialist party ordered a strike of its members in both chambers of the diet to protest a government bill providing for increased power for the police. By the beginning of November, about 4 million workers were also on a protest strike; subsequently, Prime Minister Kishi agreed to withdraw the bill. Elections in June 1959 for half the seats in the House of Councillors proved a victory for the Liberal-Democratic party. Shortly afterward, the government was completely reorganized. In November 1959 more than 500 people were injured when violent anti-U.S. riots broke out in Tokyo during a discussion in the diet of a new security pact with the United States. The treaty was signed in Washington, D.C., in January 1960, and at the same time it was announced that President Dwight D. Eisenhower would visit Japan in June. By mid-June, however, anti-U.S. feelings in Japan had grown to the extent that the visit was canceled because of fears for Eisenhower's safety. Prime Minister Kishi resigned on July 15 and was succeeded by Ikeda Hayato, the new president of the Liberal-Democratic party. In elections to the House of Representatives in October, the Liberal-Democrats won a major victory, and Ikeda formed a new cabinet in December. In 1963 the governing Liberal-Democrats sought to amend a constitutional provision banning maintenance of military forces and other war potential in Japan. The amendment, necessary to legalize further increases in the Japanese armed forces, needed approval of a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives. Lacking such majority, Prime Minister Ikeda dissolved the diet and scheduled elections for November 21. His party's majority was reduced by 13 seats.

Economic Growth

The Japanese economy continued to lead the world in its growth rate for 1964. In its drive to expand trade, the Japanese government made an agreement with China that each would establish unofficial trade liaison offices in the other's capital city. The usual five-year limit on Soviet credit was exceeded when Japan arranged the sale of a fertilizer plant to the USSR with payment extended over eight years. Prime Minister Ikeda, who had been reelected president of the Liberal-Democrats in July, was incapacitated by illness in September and resigned as prime minister in late October. He was succeeded by former minister of state Sato Eisaku (brother of Kishi Nobusuke), also a Liberal-Democrat. The 18th Olympic Games were held in Tokyo in October. Japan had prepared for the event by investing $2 billion in city improvements, including new highways, subways, and buildings. In March 1965 the South Korean foreign minister became the first Korean to have an audience with the Japanese emperor since World War II. During his visit the Japanese and South Korean governments reached far-ranging agreement on mutual relations. In the late 1960s Japan experienced widespread and sometimes violent demonstrations by radical students protesting Japanese support of U.S. foreign policy. Japanese-United States relations were strained in 1971 by the failure of the United States to consult with Japan on China policy and the devaluation of the dollar, but the breach was partly healed by the return of Okinawa to Japan in 1972. Japan in the 1960s surpassed every nation of Western Europe in terms of gross national product and ranked next to the United States as a world industrial power. The Japan World Exposition, staged at Osaka in 1970, demonstrated the nation's restored position in world affairs. By 1971 Japan was the third largest exporter in the world, next to the United States and West Germany (now part of the united Federal Republic of Germany), and the fifth largest importer.

Cabinet Turnover

Although the Liberal-Democratic party continued to hold the reins of government throughout the 1970s, the party's cabinets frequently changed. In 1972 Tanaka Kakuei, who succeeded Prime Minister Sato in July, agreed on measures to alleviate the American trade imbalance. He also visited China and agreed to resume diplomatic relations with that country immediately; official ties with Taiwan were then severed. In November 1974 Tanaka resigned in favor of Miki Takeo. Miki's government had to endure the world economic recession that followed the Arab oil embargo of 1973; Japan's economy, heavily dependent on oil and other raw materials, showed zero growth during the fiscal year 1974 to 1975. In 1975, the Liberal-Democrats were torn by factional strife and failed to pass most of their major bills in the diet. The party was further shaken in 1976 by revelations that the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, a U.S. firm, had paid at least $10 million in bribes and fees to Japanese politicians and industrialists since the 1950s. Miki called elections for December, in which the Liberal-Democrats lost their majority in the lower house for the first time. Miki resigned, and Fukuda Takeo was elected prime minister. He was replaced by Ohira Masayoshi, another Liberal-Democrat, in December 1978. After Ohira died at the height of the 1980 election campaign, Suzuki Zenko was chosen by the Liberal-Democrats to succeed him. Beset by factionalism within his own party, Suzuki unexpectedly resigned in November 1982. He was replaced as prime minister and party leader by Nakasone Yasuhiro.
The Liberal-Democrats, who suffered a setback in 1983 diet elections, won their greatest landslide in 1986; to replace Nakasone, they chose Takeshita Noboru in November 1987. Japan in the early 1980s faced urban overcrowding, environmental pollution, and unproductive agriculture, but had the highest rate of economic growth and the lowest inflation rate among leading industrial nations. Economic growth began to slow in the mid-1980s, in part because the yen's strength against the U.S. dollar had a dampening effect on exports. Hirohito died in January 1989, and his son Akihito succeeded him as emperor, inaugurating what was officially called the reign of Heisei ("achieving peace"). In April Takeshita resigned as prime minister as the result of a bribery and influence-peddling scandal; his successor, Uno Sosuke, implicated in a scandal, resigned in July and was replaced by Kaifu Toshiki. Liberal-Democrats won decisively in the parliamentary elections of February 1990, even though the Tokyo stock market had begun a decline that would last until mid-1992 and see the Nikkei average lose almost two-thirds of its value. Unable to cope with economic malaise and lacking the confidence of prominent party members, Kaifu was replaced in late 1991 by another veteran politician, Miyazawa Kiichi. National attention was diverted in June 1993 by the marriage of Crown Prince Naruhito to a commoner, Owada Masako. Confidence in the government continued to decline as the Japanese public became increasingly frustrated with the stagnant Japanese economy and corruption in the government. In June 1993 several Liberal-Democrats, led by Tsutomu Hata and Ichiro Ozawa, defected from the party, enabling minority parties in the parliament to band together and force new parliamentary elections. In the July elections the Liberal-Democrats lost their majority, ending their 38-year dominance of the Japanese government. A fragile seven-party coalition was formed; the Liberal-Democrats became the main opposition party. Morihiro Hosokawa, a former Liberal-Democrat and leader of one of the coalition parties, was elected to head the government. However, amid allegations that he had accepted an illegal loan in 1982, Hosokawa stepped down in early April 1994. Later that month, the seven-party coalition chose Hata as prime minister. Soon afterward, the largest of the seven parties withdrew from the coalition, leaving Hata without a majority in the lower house of the parliament. He subsequently resigned in late June. Socialist party leader Tomiichi Murayama was elected prime minister a few days later, becoming the first Socialist to lead Japan since 1948.

Recent Developments

During the early and mid-1990s Japan and Russia continued their territorial dispute over the four southernmost Kuril Islands. Relations were further strained in August 1994 when the Russian coast guard fired at Japanese fishing boats near the islands.
Despite these differences, relations between Japan and Russia improved in December 1994 when Japan agreed to provide economic and humanitarian aid to Russia. In January 1995 a strong earthquake struck near Kobe, resulting in more than 5000 deaths. The government was criticized for its slow and inadequate emergency response and for its reluctance to accept international assistance. Prime Minister Murayama acknowledged the government's initial mishandling of the situation. As a result, the government issued a new disaster response plan that aimed to better coordinate police, firefighting, and military efforts. In March 1995 a poisonous nerve gas was released in Tokyo's subway system during the morning rush hour. The attack left 12 people dead and more than 5000 injured.

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