To what extent was Japan's foreign policy from 1937 to 1941 responsible for the increasing tensions that eventually led to war?This is a practice question that I have been given. I don't think that...

To what extent was Japan's foreign policy from 1937 to 1941 responsible for the increasing tensions that eventually led to war?

This is a practice question that I have been given. I don't think that Japan's foreign policy was wholly responsible for the outbreak of war in the Pacific and that the US embargo on oil supplies and the request for Japan to withdraw from China was an integral part. However, I also believe that the Japanese idea of an "inevitable" war with the US became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Is this a good analysis?

Asked on by lynnie123

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Your analysis of the various aspects of this issue is very good.  I would agree with everything that you say here.  The one thing I would suggest is that you should say that the American reaction to Japan's foreign policy was at least as responsible as the foreign policy itself.

Japan's foreign policy in itself was not one that was inherently opposed to America's national interests.  Japan's desire to gain an empire in China and Southeast Asia was not obviously dangerous to the US.  But the US chose to see this desire as a threat.  This shows that the US was already considering Japan as a major threat to US security.  While Japan had the idea of inevitable war with the US, the US had the idea that any move on Japan's part to gain empire was a danger to the US.  

In other words, it is important to emphasize that the United States chose to see Japan as a major threat.  Given this choice by the US, Japan's actions caused tensions that led to the war.  So Japan bore about half of the responsibility for the tensions.

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