What were the US actions that led to the attack on Pearl Harbor?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The US actions that, arguably, led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor were actions that seemed to be hemming the Japanese in and preventing them from becoming the major imperial power that they wanted to be.  We must note that this is not to say that the Japanese attack was justified.  Instead, we are saying here that there were American actions that helped cause the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor.

The main American action came in July of 1941 after Japan had occupied what was then called French Indochina (Vietnam and surrounding areas).  America did not want Japan to do this because the US did not feel that the idea of a large Japanese empire was in its interests.  Therefore, the US demanded that Japan withdraw from Indochina.  It also froze Japanese assets in the United States.  More importantly, it stopped selling Japan scrap iron and oil.  This meant that the US was cutting off Japan’s major supply of fuel.

With this US action, Japan had only about two years’ worth of fuel for its military.  Japan felt that it needed to go to war soon so that it could capture an empire from which it could get the resources it needed.  If it waited too long, it would no longer have the fuel it needed to fight.  Therefore, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.