The war in Asia had begun in September 1931, when the Kwantung Army (the Japanese army stationed in china’s northeastern provinces, commonly known as Manchuria) manufactured an incident and attacked Chinese forces in Mukden, an important city in southern Manchuria. Within a few days, the city fell to Japanese military control, but the incident did not end there. The Kwantung army, supported by the supreme command in Tokyo, went on conquer all of Manchuria. The area was detached from the China proper and became the nominally independent state of Manchukuo, actually a puppet regime under Emperor P’u-yi, “ the last emperor.” At the same time, Japan has occupied most Chinese territory, including Shanghai City, Nanjing and some other coastal cities .The United States government did not want to see Japan expanding their occupied territories across China, and attempted to order Japan withdrawing their troops from China. To Japan, a country in lack of raw materials, the most important thing was petroleum to fuel the military campaigns in China and beyond.( In case of operations in the Sout [where was the South?], will be 850,000 kiloliters in the first year, 2.6 million kiloliters in the second year, and 5.3 million kiloliters in the third year. If an estimate is made of future supply and demand of petroleum, including 8.4 million kiloliters in our domestic stockpile, I believe we will just be able to remain self-supporting, if a reserve of 200,000 kiloliters, equivalent to approximately two month’s need, is taken in to account, the supply-and-demand relationship is as follows: in estimate 444.000 kiloliters shortage the second year and 28,000 kiloliters shortage the third year….page 23) The Japanese took over the Dutch colony in Southeast Asia, namely the Dutch East Indies (today’s Indonesia) which was full of oil resources, and this action placed a huge threat to the geopolitical interests of United State in Southeast Asia. The occupation of Indochina, however, proved to be a fatal step that ultimately led to the war with the United State. LI 2 OF 3
To clearly signal that the United States would not tolerate such a course of events, President Roosevelt froze Japanese overseas assets in the U.S. and the American allies followed suit. This meant that Japan’s trade with these countries would become extremely difficult; Japanese businessmen would have to seek authorization from the local governments. Because petroleum was main item Japan was importing form the United States, the free in effect brought a virtual halt to oil shipments across the Pacific. This was the embargo of oil that the US imposed on Japan.
Japan was a German ally. In September 1940, these two countries joined Italy in signing the Tripartite (Axis) Pact that bound them together in case one or more of them went to war with the United State. [Question: Was this purely defensive from the Japanese points of view? Just to keep the US out of the war in Asia as long as possible. What do you think?] In the meantime, Washington sent food and weapons to Britain under the Lend-Lease program and to the Soviet Union, sustaining their resistance against Germany. In other words, the United States already sided with the British and Russians, and was engaged in undeclared war against Germany before the Pearl Harbor attack. Economic and political tensions elevated the conflict between the United States and Japan, and tensions finally led to the war.
It is often said that petroleum meant everything to Japan in “beginning and ending World War II. Petroleum was major cause for japan beginning and ending the war, thus attesting to the pertinence of the above saying. The main cause of the petroleum shortage in japan can be attributed to the unanticipated great losses of vessels. The actual loss of 7,900,000 gross tons of shipping and the 3,350,000 gross tons of new shipping built during the war year were a