Why did Japan decide to bomb Pearl Harbor?

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To increase Japan's expansionism, it was perceived the neutralizing the United States naval threat had to be accomplished.  The perception was that the United States, in the midst of a challenging economic depression, would not respond with force and would be crushed by the attack.  The element of surprise was with the Japanese.  These motives of expansionist desires in the Pacific Rim and the perceived ability to silence the United States played into the Japanese desire to bomb the United States.  Pearl Harbor seemed to be the perfect target because of its close proximity to Japan and a small distance for bombers to travel, and that military support would not be able to get to the island from the mainland in time.

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The overall reason for this is that Japan wanted to have an empire in East Asia.  They needed the empire as a source for raw materials and as a place for excess population to go and live.

The Japanese believed that the US would try to stop them from taking this empire and so they felt they would need to neutralize the US fleet to give them time to capture the empire.

When the US stopped selling them oil in 1941, they felt that they had to move soon before their stocks of oil ran too low.  That is why they chose to attack Pearl Harbor -- to neutralize the US fleet so they could win an empire before their oil supplies ran out.

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