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Setting the Stage

In the early 20th century, Japan resolved to take its place among the world's great powers. The needs of its booming population, its lack of natural resources, and the growing power of its military led the nation on a search for more territory. Between 1905 and the late 1930s, it occupied Taiwan, Korea, Manchuria, and parts of China; withdrew from the League of Nations; and defied international naval arms restrictions. As Hitler and Mussolini set out to dominate Europe, Japan sought the same type of influence in the Pacific. In 1940, Japan signed the Tripartite Pact. The main purpose of the Tripartite Pack was to keep the United States out of the war by threatening a two-front war in the Atlantic and the Pacific. Germany, Italy, and Japan also divided Europe and Greater East Asia among themselves. German occupation of France and the Netherlands left the Southeast Asian colonies of those countries unprotected and vulnerable to Japanese invasion.

The United States and Britain applied harsh economic sanctions, hoping to slow Japanese expansion into the former colonial areas. In July 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt froze all Japanese assets in the U. S., shutting off vitally needed oil supplies. Even as negotiations were going on between the two governments, Japan continued its aggression in China, Indochina, and other Southeast Asian territories. Then, on December 7, 1941, Japan attacked U.S. ships and aircraft at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. By December 8, the United States and Japan were at war.



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