What happened with the Washington conference that angered the Japanese and what was their response to it?
The Washington Conference designed to reduce the size of the world's navies. While it was supposed to send the message of U.S. interest in peace, with Japan, at least, it backfired and made things potentially more dangerous.
The Washington Armaments Conference of 1932 was called by Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes in response to strained relations with Japan. While the Conference failed to resolve many problems between the U.S. and Japan, it did nothing to exacerbate those problems.
The U.S. had become concerned about aggressive expansionist policies which Japan pursued in Asia. The Japanese had been keenly disappointed following the Treaty of Versailles when they walked away empty handed. They had entered World War I on the Allied side expecting territorial gains as a result, but came away with nothing, as the major signatories to the Treaty were only concerned with European affairs. They were also offended by the Emergency Immigration Act of 1921 which prohibited any immigration by people from East Asia. This was a blunt insult to the Japanese, a proud people who were appalled that they should be treated as undesirable by any other nation.
At the Conference, a number of agreements were entered into with the intent of preventing another war. In opening the conference, Hughes said in a speech, "the only way to disarm is to disarm." Among the agreements reached:
- The Five Power Naval Treaty to which Japan was a signatory, placed a moratorium of ten years on building new battle ships.
- The Four Power Treaty which Japan also signed which promised that each nation would respect other nations Pacific possessions. Any disputes were to be resolved by "consultation."
- The Nine Power Treaty by which all parties agreed to respect Chinese territorial integrity. Japan signed this also.
None of the agreements had provisions for enforcement, and the Japanese government, controlled by a war party, withdrew from all the agreements. The move was not because of anger at the conference; but because the Japanese government had decided to proceed with its plans to build an empire in Asia. When Japan later invaded Manchuria, the battle cry of Japanese soldiers was "Asia for Asians."
Organised and initiated by the Americans, the Washington Naval Conference called for a reduction in the naval forces of the major naval powers, which included the US, Britain, Japan, Italy and France. It was decided after much negotiations that the ratio of naval strength between the powers was to be 5: 5: 3: 1.67: 1.67 respectively. The Japanese were angered by such an arrangement since this meant that they had to reduce their naval strength more than the US and Britain. Such actions were seen by the Japanese public as attempts by the West to limit and restrain the ability of Japan to expand outwards. This fed into their increasing frustrations and pushed them ever closer to rejecting the West and accepting ideas of Pan-Asianism.