Japan’s decision to accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration was one of the most pivotal events in the country’s modern history. Most students of the decision-making process agree that Foreign Minister Tōgō Shigenori was the principal motive force supporting acceptance of the Allies’ demands throughout the debate over the action. Some recent historiography in Japan has questioned Tōgō’s approach, focusing particularly on his decision to seek the mediation of the Soviet Union and on the question of why he did not bring hostilities to an end sooner. Historical materials that were previously unavailable to scholars shed some light on these questions. In combination with Tōgō’s daily planner (in the author’s possession), his memoirs, and the author’s own recollection of anecdotes his parents told to him, these materials make possible a detailed examination of Tōgō’s thoughts and actions in the days leading to the acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration. This shows that Tōgō, facing stubborn resistance from the military and from public opinion, nevertheless persevered in his quest to bring the war to an end. He also maintained the trust and respect of not only Emperor Hirohito, but also of Army Minister Anami Korechika, his principal antagonist in the debate.
The prosecution of the crimes of the Imperial Japanese Army’s Unit 731 are often compared to the prosecution of the crimes of the Nazi doctors. These comparisons emphasize immunity for the Japanese, whereas the Nazis were prosecuted for their actions. However, this comparison is an inaccurate one. While both trials look similar on the surface, their composition, scope, and framework were different. Conscious of the fact they were establishing international criminal precedent, the United States’ case against the Nazi doctors relied on military chain of command to prove strong legal responsibility for human experimentation crimes. In contrast, the United States avoided prosecuting Unit 731 because they could not replicate the same clear legal framework used to successfully prosecute the Nazis. The Soviet Union recognized the strategic implications of the United States’ decision not to try Unit 731 and saw an opportunity to strike a moral blow, not only by convicting Japanese military members at the Khabarovsk Trial, but also by immediately publishing the court’s proceedings internationally. Rather than focusing on the morality of who was punished by whom, understanding the military structures as identified through these different court proceedings could enable prevention of crimes against humanity.
This article examines the impact of Japan’s economic control of Manchukuo on U.S.-Japan relations. From 1933 to 1935, ties between the two countries came to a temporary standstill. However, during these years, Washington and Tokyo waged a diplomatic war in the background over Japan’s control of Manchukuo’s economy. Although the United States accused Japan of violating the Nine Power Treaty it had signed endorsing the Open Door Policy, Japan established several special companies in Manchukuo, and some American firms withdrew from Manchuria. What kind of diplomatic negotiations developed between the United States and Japan during this period? What impact did they have on the relationship between the two countries? This article examines Japan’s development of economic control in Manchukuo and considers its impact, while situating the matter within the history of U.S.-Japan relations during the interwar period. In doing so, it will show how Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs implemented measures that prevented Japan’s economic domination of Manchukuo from immediately worsening U.S.-Japan relations. At the same time, it demonstrates that Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as its army, played an important role in the process of Japan asserting dominance over Manchuria.