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 in 1941. It was superseded by the diametrically-opposite rival policy, Nanshin-ron (南進論, "Southern Expansion Doctrine" or "Southern Road"), which regarded Southeast Asia and the Pacific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.
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.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). 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.By the mid-1930s there was the serious possibility of a clash between the Army and Navy due to incompatible expansionist ideas.
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.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".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. 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.
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.
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.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.
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.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.
The Imperial General Headquarters was part of the Supreme War Council and was established in 1893 to coordinate efforts between the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy during wartime. In terms of function, it was approximately equivalent to the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff and the British Chiefs of Staff Committee.
The Battles of Khalkhin Gol were the decisive engagements of the undeclared Soviet–Japanese border conflicts fought among the Soviet Union, Mongolia, Japan and Manchukuo in 1939. The conflict was named after the river Khalkhin Gol, which passes through the battlefield. In Japan, the decisive battle of the conflict is known as the Nomonhan Incident after Nomonhan, a nearby village on the border between Mongolia and Manchuria. The battles resulted in the defeat of the Japanese Sixth Army.
Seishirō Itagaki was a General in the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II and a War Minister. Convicted of war crimes, he was executed in 1948.
Kanji Ishiwara was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II. He and Itagaki Seishirō were the men primarily responsible for the Mukden Incident that took place in Manchuria in 1931.
Baron Sadao Araki was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army before and during World War II. As one of the principal nationalist right-wing political theorists in the Empire of Japan, he was regarded as the leader of the radical faction within the politicized Imperial Japanese Army and served as Minister of War under Prime Minister Inukai. He later served as Minister of Education during the Konoe and Hiranuma administrations. After World War II, he was convicted of war crimes and given a life sentence.
The Soviet invasion of Manchuria, formally known as the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation or simply the Manchurian Operation, began on 9 August 1945 with the Soviet invasion of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. It was the last campaign of the Second World War, and the largest of the 1945 Soviet–Japanese War, which resumed hostilities between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Empire of Japan after almost six years of peace. Soviet gains on the continent were Manchukuo, Mengjiang and northern Korea. The Soviet entry into the war and the defeat of the Kwantung Army was a significant factor in the Japanese government's decision to surrender unconditionally, as it made apparent the Soviet Union had no intention of acting as a third party in negotiating an end to hostilities on conditional terms.
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, militaristic and aggressive expansionistic 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 political situation in Japan (1914–44) dealt with the realities of the two World Wars and their effect on Japanese national policy.
The Mongolian People's Army or Mongolian People's Revolutionary Army was an institution of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party constituting as the armed forces of the Mongolian People's Republic.
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 expansionistic 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.
The Soviet–Japanese War was a military conflict within the Second World War beginning soon after midnight on August 9, 1945, with the Soviet invasion of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. The Soviets and Mongolians terminated Japanese control of Manchukuo, Mengjiang, northern Korea, Karafuto, and the Chishima Islands. The defeat of Japan's Kwantung Army helped in the Japanese surrender and the termination of World War II. The Soviet entry into the war was a significant factor in the Japanese government's decision to surrender unconditionally, as it made apparent that the Soviet Union was not willing to act as a third party in negotiating an end to hostilities on conditional terms.
Nanshin-ron was a political doctrine in the Empire of Japan which stated that Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands were Japan's sphere of interest and that the potential value to the Japanese Empire for economic and territorial expansion in those areas was greater than elsewhere.
Yukio Kasahara was a leading general in the Imperial Japanese Army in the Second Sino-Japanese War.
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.
The Soviet–Japanese border conflicts, also known as the Soviet-Japanese Border War, was an undeclared border conflict fought between the Soviet Union and Japan in Northeast Asia from 1932 to 1939.
Hideo Iwakuro was a major general in the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. He is also known as one of the founders of the Kyoto Sangyo University.
The Japanese colonial empire constituted the overseas colonies established by Imperial Japan in the Western Pacific and East Asia region from 1895. Victories over China and Russia expanded the Japanese sphere of influence, notably in Taiwan and Korea, and southern Sakhalin became a colony of Japan as the Karafuto Prefecture in 1905.
The Kwantung Army was an army group of the Imperial Japanese Army from 1906 to 1945.
Alvin David Coox, was an American military historian and author known for his award-winning book, Nomonhan: Japan Against Siberia.
KANTOKUEN was an operational plan created by the General Staff of the Imperial Japanese Army for an invasion and occupation of the far eastern region of the Soviet Union, capitalizing on the outbreak of the Soviet-German War in June 1941. Involving seven Japanese armies as well as a major portion of the empire's naval and air forces, it would have been the largest single combined arms operation in Japanese history, and one of the largest of all time.