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Map of Japanese Hokushin-ron plans for a potential attack on the Soviet Union. Dates indicate the year that Japan gained control of the territory. Hokushin-ron-Map.svg
Map of Japanese Hokushin-ron plans for a potential attack on the Soviet Union. Dates indicate the year that Japan gained control of the territory.

Hokushin-ron(北進論, "Northern Expansion Doctrine" or "Northern Road") was a pre-World War II political doctrine of the Empire of Japan which stated that Manchuria and Siberia were Japan's sphere of interest and that the potential value to Japan for economic and territorial expansion in those areas was greater than elsewhere. Its supporters were sometimes called the Strike North Group. It enjoyed wide support within the Imperial Japanese Army during the interwar period, but was abandoned in 1939 after military defeat on the Mongolian front at the Battles of Khalkhin Gol (known in Japan as the Nomonhan incident) and the signing of Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact. It was superseded by the diametrically-opposite rival policy, Nanshin-ron (南進論, "Southern Expansion Doctrine" or "Southern Road"), which regarded Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands as Japan's political and economic sphere of influence and aimed to acquire the resources of European colonies while neutralising the threat of Western military forces in the Pacific.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Empire of Japan Empire in the Asia-Pacific region between 1868–1947

The Empire of Japan was the historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the enactment of the 1947 constitution of modern Japan.

Manchuria geographic region in Northeast Asia

Manchuria is a name first used in the 17th century by Japanese people to refer to a large geographic region in Northeast Asia. Depending on the context, Manchuria can either refer to a region that falls entirely within the People's Republic of China or a larger region divided between China and Russia. "Manchuria" is widely used outside China to denote the geographical and historical region. This region is the traditional homeland of several ancient groups, including the Buyeo, Xianbei, Shiwei, Khitan, and Jurchen peoples, who built several states within the area historically. Several modern ethnic groups such as Mongols, Koreans, and Han Chinese also regard as Manchurian Indigenous peoples.



From the First Sino-Japanese War in the 1890s, Hokushin-ron came to dominate Japanese foreign policy. It guided both the Japanese invasion of Taiwan (1895) and the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1910 which annexed Korea to Japan. [1] After the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5) Field Marshal Prince Yamagata Aritomo, a political and military ideological architect of Hokushin-ron, traced the lines of a defensive strategy against Russia. A February 1907 Imperial National Defence guideline envisioned two strategies: Nanshu Hokushin Ron (南守北進, defence in the South and advance in the North) and Hokushu Nanshin Ron (北守南進, defence in the North and advance in the South). [2] There was intense discourse within Japan on the two diverging theories. Following World War I, Japanese troops were deployed as part of the Siberian Intervention during the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, with the hope that Japan could be freed from any future Russian threat by detaching Siberia and forming an independent buffer state. [3] The Japanese troops remained until 1922, encouraging discussion by Japanese strategic planners of the idea of permanent Japanese occupation of Siberia east of Lake Baikal. [1]

First Sino-Japanese War 1894–1895 war between the Qing dynasty and the Empire of Japan over influence in Joseon, fought chiefly in Joseon

The First Sino-Japanese War, also known as the Chino-Japanese War, was fought between China and Japan primarily over influence in Korea. After more than six months of unbroken successes by Japanese land and naval forces and the loss of the port of Weihaiwei, the Qing government sued for peace in February 1895.

Japanese invasion of Taiwan (1895)

The Japanese invasion of Taiwan was a conflict between the Empire of Japan and the armed forces of the short-lived Republic of Formosa following the Qing Dynasty's cession of Taiwan to Japan in April 1895 at the end of the First Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese sought to take control of their new possession, while the Republican forces fought to resist Japanese occupation. The Japanese landed near Keelung on the northern coast of Taiwan on 29 May 1895, and in a five-month campaign swept southwards to Tainan. Although their advance was slowed by guerrilla activity, the Japanese defeated the Formosan forces whenever they attempted to make a stand. The Japanese victory at Baguashan on 27 August, the largest battle ever fought on Taiwanese soil, doomed the Formosan resistance to an early defeat. The fall of Tainan on 21 October ended organised resistance to Japanese occupation, and inaugurated five decades of Japanese rule in Taiwan.

Japan–Korea Treaty of 1910 treaty

The Japan–Korea Treaty of 1910, also known as the Japan–Korea Annexation Treaty, was made by representatives of the Empire of Japan and the Korean Empire on August 22, 1910. In this treaty, Japan formally annexed Korea following the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1905 by which Korea became a protectorate of Japan and Japan–Korea Treaty of 1907 by which Korea was deprived of the administration of internal affairs.

Invasion of Manchuria

An essential step in the Hokushin-ron proposal was for Japan to seize control of Manchuria, so as to obtain an extensive de facto land border with the Soviet Union. Insubordination by rogue Japanese military personnel in the Kwantung Army in 1931 led to the Mukden Incident and provided a pretext for the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. As the Kwantung Army had 12,000 men available for the invasion of Manchuria at the time it needed reinforcements. War minister Sadao Araki was a solid supporter of the Hokushin-ron, and of a proposed attack on the Soviet Far East and Siberia. He arranged for Chōsen Army forces to be moved from Korea north into Manchuria without permission from Tokyo in support of the Kwantung Army. The plot to seize Manchuria proceeded as planned, and when presented by the fait accompli, all Prime Minister Reijirō Wakatsuki could do was weakly protest and resign with his cabinet. When the new cabinet was formed, Araki, as War Minister, was the real power in Japan. A puppet state was formed in Northeast China and Inner Mongolia. It was named Manchukuo and governed under a form of constitutional monarchy.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Insubordination is the act of willfully disobeying an order of one's superior. Refusing to perform an action that is unethical or illegal is not insubordination; neither is refusing to perform an action that is not within the scope of authority of the person issuing the order.

Kwantung Army military unit

The Kwantung Army was an army group of the Imperial Japanese Army in the first half of the 20th century. It became the largest and most prestigious command in the IJA. Many of its personnel, such as Chiefs of staff Seishirō Itagaki and Hideki Tōjō, were promoted to high positions in both the military and civil government in the Empire of Japan and it was largely responsible for the creation of the Japanese-dominated Empire of Manchuria. In August 1945, the army group, around 713,000 men at the time, was defeated by and surrendered to Soviet troops as a result of the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation.

Factionalism within the military

Hokushin-ron was largely supported by the Imperial Japanese Army. General Kenkichi Ueda was a strong believer in the Hokushin-ron policy, believing that Japan's main enemy was communism and that Japan's destiny lay in conquest of the natural resources of the sparely populated north Asian mainland. General Yukio Kasahara was also a major proponent of the Hokushin-ron philosophy, feeling strongly that the Soviet Union posed both a major threat and a major opportunity for Japan.

Imperial Japanese Army Official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan, from 1868 to 1945

The Imperial Japanese Army was the official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan from 1868 to 1945. It was controlled by the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office and the Ministry of the Army, both of which were nominally subordinate to the Emperor of Japan as supreme commander of the army and the navy. Later an Inspectorate General of Aviation became the third agency with oversight of the army. During wartime or national emergencies, the nominal command functions of the emperor would be centralized in an Imperial General Headquarters (IGHQ), an ad-hoc body consisting of the chief and vice chief of the Army General Staff, the Minister of the Army, the chief and vice chief of the Naval General Staff, the Inspector General of Aviation, and the Inspector General of Military Training.

Kenkichi Ueda Japanese general

Kenkichi Ueda was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. He played an active role in the Soviet-Japanese Border Wars of the late 1930s.

Communism socialist political movement and ideology

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

However, rival cliques of officers in the Army claimed to represent the "true will" of the Emperor. The radical ultranationalist Imperial Way Faction (Kōdōha) had many young activists who were strongly supportive of the Hokushin-ron strategy and a preemptive strike against the Soviet Union. They were opposed by the more moderate conservative Control Faction ( Tōseiha ), which favored a more cautious defence expansion and sought to impose greater discipline over the Army and war with China as a strategic imperative. [4]

Imperial Way Faction

The Kōdōha or Imperial Way Faction (皇道派) was a political faction in the Imperial Japanese Army active in the 1920s and 1930s. The Kōdōha sought to establish a military government that promoted totalitarian, militarist, and aggressive expansionist ideals, and was largely supported by junior officers. The radical Kōdōha rivaled the moderate Tōseiha for influence in the army until the February 26 Incident in 1936, when it was de facto dissolved and many supporters were disciplined or executed.


The Tōseiha or Control Faction (統制派) was a political faction in the Imperial Japanese Army active in the 1920s and 1930s. The Tōseiha was a grouping of moderate officers united primarily by their opposition to the radical Kōdōha faction and its aggressive expansionist and anti-modernization ideals. The Tōseiha rivaled the Kōdōha for influence in the army until the February 26 Incident in 1936, when the Kōdōha was de facto dissolved and many supporters were disciplined or executed. The Tōseiha became the primary influence in the army, but the Kōdōha ideology and its supporters continued to influence Japanese militarism into the late 1930s.

China Country in East Asia

China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the third- or fourth-largest country by total area. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

Relations between the Japanese Army and Navy were never cordial, and often marked by deep hostility, a situation whose origin can be traced back to the Meiji period. From the early 1930s the Army saw the Soviet Union as Japan's greatest threat and for the most part supported the Hokushin-ron concept that Japan's strategic interests were on the Asian continent. The Navy looked across the Pacific Ocean and saw the United States as the greatest threat, and for the most part supported the Nanshin-ron concept that Japan's strategic interests were in Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands. [5] By the mid-1930s there was the serious possibility of a clash between the Army and Navy due to incompatible expansionist ideas. [6]

Pacific Ocean Ocean between Asia and Australia in the west, the Americas in the east and Antarctica or the Southern Ocean in the south.

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south and is bounded by Asia and Australia in the west and the Americas in the east.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Events of 1936

The Kōdōha faction, which favoured Hokushin-ron, was dominant in the Army during Araki's tenure as Minister of War from 1931 to 1934, occupying most significant staff positions. However, many of its members were replaced by Tōseiha officers following Araki's resignation from ill health in 1934. [7] [8] In 1936, Kōdōha-affiliated young Army officers launched an unsuccessful coup d'état in the February 26 Incident. As a result, Kōdōha generals were purged from the Army, including Araki, who was forced to retire in March 1936.

The Imperial Defence Plan, formulated in June 1936, incorporated a balance of both Hokushin-ron and Nanshin-ron, requiring that both the Army and the Navy take a peaceful and unprovocative approach to their "enemies". [6] The plan's goal was to acquire territories which possessed the raw materials, particularly petroleum, which Japan needed to sustain its growth and economy, but which it did not possess itself. Northward expansion (Hokushin-ron) would gain the natural resources of Siberia by attacking the Soviet Union via Manchuria. Southward expansion (Nanshin-ron) would involve seizing the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and other colonies from the French and/or British. [5] [9] Japan's supply of resources would eventually be assured by creating a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere". However, European powers had been dominant in Southeast Asia for more than a century, and Japanese foreign policy had little experience there. In pursuing Nanshin-ron Japan would risk – and in some quarters even welcome – a large-scale war with the great powers from across the globe. [1]

In November 1936 the Anti-Comintern Pact was concluded between Japan and Nazi Germany. It agreed that in case of an attack by the Soviet Union against Germany or Japan, the two countries agreed to consult on what measures to take "to safeguard their common interests". They also agreed that neither of them would make any political treaties with the Soviet Union, and Germany also agreed to recognize Manchukuo.

Soviet–Japanese border conflicts

A series of Soviet–Japanese border conflicts, without any formal declaration of war, began in 1932. Aggressive actions initiated by Japanese staff and field officers on the Soviet border with Manchukuo and Mongolia led to the disastrous Battles of Khalkhin Gol (1939) which resulted in heavy casualties for Kwantung Army and severely challenged its much-vaunted reputation. Any farther expansion northwards into Siberia was shown to be impossible given the Soviet superiority in numbers and armour. [9] However, General Ueda continued to support the actions of his officers and refused to discourage them from taking similar actions, remaining adamant in his support of the Hokushin-ron policy. He was recalled back to Japan in late 1939 and forced into retirement. The Kwantung Army was purged of both its more insubordinate elements and its proponents of Hokushin-ron. [10] [11]

Abandonment of Hokushin-ron

The Army lost prestige due to its failures in the Soviet–Japanese border conflicts; as a result the Navy gained the ascendency. It was supported in this by a number of the powerful industrial Zaibatsus, convinced that they could best serve their interests by fulfilling the needs of the Navy. The military setbacks on the Mongolian front, the ongoing Second Sino-Japanese War, and negative Western attitudes towards Japanese expansionist tendencies led to a shift towards Nanshin-ron in order to procure colonial resources in South East Asia and to neutralize the threat posed by Western military forces in the Pacific. Japan and the USSR signed the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact in April 1941, freeing Japan for preparations for the Pacific War. [9] [12] When Nazi Germany launched its invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Japan did not join its Axis ally's invasion by opening a second front in the Far East. Indeed, Japan did not militarily engage with the Soviet Union again until the USSR declared war on Japan in August 1945. [13]

See also

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