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The question of secession from the Axis Alliance

The greatest ambition entertained by Japan was that the Axis Alliance concluded on September 27, 1940, would "recognize and respect the leadership of Japan in the establishment of a new order in Greater East Asia" in Article 2 of the pact. What Germany demanded in exchange from Japan for this guarantee in Article 2 was specified in Article 3, which stipulated the so-called automatic liability for participation in war. The ground for the aggravation of Japan-United States relations from the viewpoint of international law lay in this article. Ac- cordingly, the question of annulment of the Axis Alliance became one of the greatest questions at issue in the Japan-United States negotiations in 1941.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Teijiro Toyoda of the 3rd Konoye Cabinet complied with America's demand, informing her twice, on September 6 and 25, that Japan interpreted the liability for participation in war based on the Axis alli- ance, not as automatic, but as being an independent decision 11 in order to quickly achieve a compromise with the United States. The American Ambassa- dor, Joseph Grew, rated the Toyoda diplomacy highly. In his report dated Sep- tember 29 to Secretary Hull, he said, 12 "the Japanese Government actually has shown a readiness to reduce Japan's alliance adherence to a dead letter".

Nevertheless, the American proposal sent to Japan on October 2 rejected in a roundabout way the holding of a Konoye-Roosevelt talk proposed by Japan, and at the same time, asked Japan for "additional clarification" of the question of nullifying the Axis Alliance.

Then, in the final stage of the Japan-United States talks held following the formation of the Tejo Cabinet, Secretary of State Hull pressed Ambassadors Kichisaburo Nomura and Saburo Kurusu for a total abrogation of the Axis Alli- ance.

From the standpoint of Japan's situation at that time, America should have reached a compromise on the September 6 proposal for the question of secession from the Axis Alliance. Nevertheless, America assumed a severer attitude. Why?

American historian, Paul W. Schroeder criticized Hull's policy toward Ja- pan as being too hard and rigid a policy. And an American diplomatic critic, George F. Kennan, too, criticized Hull's legalistic and moralistic approach.

We, however, believe that the answer to this question lies in the likelihood that America's policy makers from the summer to autumn of 1941 had already determined to enter into war. Then why did America increase its resolve to fight? To answer this question, we must first look at the outbreak of the German- Soviet War on June 22.

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