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Attack on Manchuria


Japanese occupation of Manchuria
Japanese occupation of Manchuria

Against a background of economic distress, social discontent, and political instability, the Japanese military launched a new phase of political expansion on the Asian continent in the early 1930s. Their primary motive was to protect Japan’s existing treaty rights and interests in Manchuria and other parts of China against a militant new Chinese nationalist movement. This movement, led by Chiang Kai-shek, called for an end to foreign imperialist privileges. Because the Chinese nationalists cooperated for a time with the Chinese Communist Party, many Japanese military leaders feared an alliance between a radicalized China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, the Communist successor to the Russian Empire). Others saw Japan’s expansion into Manchuria as a way of dealing with economic crisis and rural distress at home. Vast tracts of undeveloped land in the region offered opportunities for Japanese rural migrants, and its natural resources could supply raw materials, such as iron ore and coal, for Japanese industry.

On September 18, 1931, officers of Japan’s Kwangtung Army (the military force stationed on the Liaodong Peninsula) blew up a section of track on the South Manchuria Railway outside of Mukden (Shenyang). Claiming the explosion was the work of Chinese saboteurs, Japanese forces occupied key cities in southern Manchuria. Within a few months they controlled the entire region. Although the Kwantung Army acted without authorization from the Japanese government, its decisive action was popular at home, and political leaders accepted it as an accomplished fact. Rather than create a new colony, the Japanese decided to set up the nominally independent state of Manchukuo under Emperor Henry Pu Yi, who had been the last emperor of China. Real control over Manchukuo remained in the hands of Japanese advisers and officials.

On September 18, 1931, officers of Japan’s Kwangtung Army (the military force stationed on the Liaodong Peninsula) blew up a section of track on the South Manchuria Railway outside of Mukden (Shenyang). Claiming the explosion was the work of Chinese saboteurs, Japanese forces occupied key cities in southern Manchuria. Within a few months they controlled the entire region. Although the Kwantung Army acted without authorization from the Japanese government, its decisive action was popular at home, and political leaders accepted it as an accomplished fact. Rather than create a new colony, the Japanese decided to set up the nominally independent state of Manchukuo under Emperor Henry Pu Yi, who had been the last emperor of China. Real control over Manchukuo remained in the hands of Japanese advisers and officials.

Success in Manchuria emboldened the Japanese military to intervene in domestic politics. In February 1936 young, ultranationalist army officers staged a military insurrection in Tokyo to end civilian control of the government and put a military regime in its place. Army leaders put down the coup but in its aftermath acquired greater political influence as the country embarked on a new military buildup. In 1936 Japan signed an anti-Communist agreement with Germany, and one year later it signed a similar pact with Italy. Aggression and expansion now seemed inevitable. "Japan" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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