Why did Japanese nationalists want an empire?
Japan as an ally of the German Empire
From the mid-1930s onwards, Japan sought political rapprochement with the German Empire. Japan wanted the Nazi regime to go to war against the Soviet Union in order to achieve its expansionist goals in East Asia. On November 25, 1936, on the initiative of Japan, the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and the Japanese special ambassador Mushanokôji Kintomo (1882-1962) signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, a symbolic agreement aimed at jointly fighting the Communist International. In a secret additional protocol, they committed themselves to mutual neutrality in the event of an unprovoked attack by the Soviet Union and assured that they would not conclude any contracts with the Soviet Union. Without knowledge of the secret additional protocol, the Japanese satellite state Manchukuo, Hungary and Spain joined the agreement in 1939 and Bulgaria, Croatia, occupied Denmark, Finland, Nanking China, Romania and Slovakia in 1941.
The Nazi regime, on the other hand, viewed Japan as a less important ally in the 1930s. The German-Soviet non-aggression treaty of August 22, 1939, which Japan viewed as a breach of the Anti-Comintern Pact, was of greater importance to Hitler because of the war against Great Britain and France. It was only with the preparations for the German attack on the Soviet Union that Japan's importance as a military ally grew. On Hitler's initiative, the three-power pact was signed in 1940, which extended the "Berlin-Rome axis" to include Tokyo.
With the unannounced attack by the Japanese Empire on the US naval base Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Second World War began in the Pacific region. A day later, the mutual declaration of war took place. On December 11th - four days after the Japanese attack - Adolf Hitler, as an ally of the Japanese Empire, announced the German declaration of war on the USA.
But the joint treaties between Germany and Japan could not do much to relieve the other alliance partner. Japan fought in Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific, Germany in Europe and North Africa. After the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Japan and the Soviet Union concluded an armistice after fierce fighting on the Manchurian border, which lasted until 1945. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Japan's capacities were not strong enough to open a second front in Manchuria. For Josef Stalin it was thus possible to use the Siberian troops of the Red Army to defend Moscow, which led to a standstill of the German offensive.
After all, the weak German-Japanese alliance could do little to counter the superior military power of the United States. With the approval of the hitherto largest military budget in 1943, the USA was able to push back the Japanese military in the Pacific and, at the same time, with the landing in Normandy on June 6, 1944, to open a second front on the European mainland, which ultimately led to the defeat of the Nazi Initiated the regime. After Germany's unconditional surrender on 8/9 May 1945, the fighting concentrated on the Pacific region. Only after the US atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, in which more than 200,000 people died, did the Japanese government capitulate on September 2, 1945.
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