was a Japanese politician and prime minister
. During his tenure, he presided over the Japanese invasion of China in 1937
and the breakdown in diplomatic relations resulting in Japan’s entry into World War II. He also played a central role in transforming his country into a totalitarian
state by passing the National Mobilization Law
and founding the Imperial Rule Assistance Association
Despite Konoe's attempts to resolve tensions with the United States, the rigid timetable imposed on negotiations by the military and his government's inflexibility regarding a resolution set Japan on the path to war. Upon failing to reach a peace agreement, Konoe resigned as Prime Minister on 18 October 1941 prior to the outbreak of hostilities. However, he remained a close advisor to the Emperor until the end of World War II. Following the end of the war, he committed suicide on 16 December 1945.
Fumimaro Konoe was born in Tokyo on 12 October 1891 to the prominent Konoe family
, one of the main branches of the ancient Fujiwara clan
. The Konoe were the "''head of the most prestigious, and highest ranking noble house in the realm''". They became independent of the Fujiwara in the 12th century, when Minamoto no Yoritomo
divided the Fujiwara into five separate houses (go-sekke). "''First among the go-sekke was the Konoe''", and Fumimaro was its 29th leader.
His younger brother Hidemaro Konoye
was a symphony conductor. Konoe's father, Atsumaro
, had been politically active, having organized the Anti-Russia Society in 1903.
Fumimaro's mother died shortly after his birth; his father then married her younger sister. Fumimaro was misled into thinking she was his real mother, and found out the truth when he was 12 years old after his father's death.
Fumimaro inherited family debt when his father died. Thanks to the financial support of the zaibatsu Sumitomo
, which he received throughout his career, and the auction of Fujiwara heirlooms the family was able to become solvent.
He studied socialism at Kyoto Imperial University
and translated Oscar Wilde
's "The Soul of Man Under Socialism
" into Japanese, where he met Saionji Kinmochi
. Konoe became Saionji's protege, after graduation he went to Saionji for advice about starting a political career, and worked briefly in home ministry before accompanying his mentor to Versailles as part of the Japanese peace delegation.
In December 1918, prior to Versailles
, Konoe published an essay titled "Reject the Anglo-American-Centered Peace" (英米本位の平和主義を排す). In this article in 1918 he attacked the western democracies as hypocritically supporting democracy, peace, and self determination, while he argued that they actually undermined these ideals through their own version of racially discriminatory imperialism. He argued that the league of nations was actually an effort to institutionalize the status quo, colonial hegemony of the western powers. Following a translation by American journalist Thomas Franklin Fairfax Millard
, Saionji wrote a rebuttal in his journal, ''Millard's Review of the Far East
''. Saionji deemed Konoe's writing to be reckless, but after it became internationally read, Konoe was invited to dinner by Sun Yat-sen
who admired Japan's quick modernization, where they discussed pan Asian nationalism.
During the Paris peace conference, Konoe was one of the Japanese diplomats who proposed the Racial Equality Proposal
for the Covenant of the League of Nations. When the Racial Equality Clause came up before the committee, it received the support of Japan, France, Serbia, Greece, Italy, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, and China. However, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson overturned the vote, declaring that the clause needed unanimous support. Konoe took the rejection of the Racial Equality Clause very badly, and was afterwards known to have had a grudge against white people who he felt had humiliated Japan by rejecting the Racial Equality Clause.
Upon his return to Japan he published a booklet where he described his travels to France, England and America, how he was angered by rising anti-Japanese sentiment there, and how government policy which discriminated against Japanese immigration to America, additionally he described China as a rival to Japan in international relations. Before Konoe left to Europe he fathered an illegitimate child with his Geisha Kiku.
House of Peers
In 1916, while at university, Fumimaro took his father's seat in the house of peers. After his return from Europe he was aggressively recruited by the most powerful political faction of Japan's budding Taisho democracy
of the 1920s, the ''kenkyukai'', led by Yamagata Aritomo
, which he joined in September 1922. The ''kenkyukai'' was a conservative, militaristic faction, generally opposed to democratic reform.
The opposing faction was the ''seiyukai''
, led by Hara Takashi
, which drew its strength from the lower house. Eventually the ''seiyukai'' was able to gain the support of Aritomo, and Kei became premier in 1918. Konoe believed the house of peers should stay neutral in factional party politics due to fear that the peerage would have their privileges restricted if seen as too partisan. He therefore supported Hara Kei's ''seiyukai'' government, as did most of the ''kenkyukai''.
However, by 1923 the ''seiyukai'' had split into two factions, and could no longer control the government. As different factions rose to control the government, Konoe supported universal male suffrage during the premiership of Kato Komei and his party the ''kenseikai'', to forestall his government from enaction of serious curtailment of the privileges of the nobility. He committed to universal male suffrage as he believed it was the best way to channel popular discontent into the current political system, thereby reducing the chances of violent revolution. As the house of peers became allied with different political factions in the lower house, Konoe left the ''kenkyukai'' in November 1927.
Like his position in regard to the nobility, he believed that the emperor should not take political positions as well, since in his eyes it would diminish the imperial prestige, undermine the unifying power of the throne, expose the emperor to criticism, and potentially undermine domestic tranquillity. His greatest fear in this period of rapid industrialization would become the threat of left wing revolution, facilitated by the petty factionalism of Taisho democracy's political factions. He saw the peerage as a bulwark of stability committed to tranquillity, harmony, the maintenance of the status quo, its function was to restrain the excesses of the elected government, but its power was to be used sparingly.
Alliance with Home Ministry
The Japanese home ministry was extremely powerful, was in charge of the police, elections, public works, Shinto shrine
s, and land development. The home ministry was also abused to influence elections in favour of the ruling party. Konoe entered into an alliance with important home ministry officials despite having once believed it to be beneath the dignity of a nobleman, the most important among these officials being Yoshiharu Tazawa
, who he met after he became the managing director of the Japan Youth Hall (''Nippon Seinenkan'') in 1921. Konoe and these officials saw the influence of local ''meiboka'' political bosses as a threat to Japan's political stability, universal suffrage having opened the vote to the peasantry, which was undereducated, and controlled by these local bosses, who utilized pork barrel politics. These officials also shared Konoe's concern about party influence within the home ministry, which had seen great turnover mirroring the political upheaval occurring in the Diet. Konoe's association with the youth hall began two months after the publication of an article in July 1921, where he stressed education of the electorate's political wisdom and morality, and lamented that education only taught youth to accept ideas passively from their superiors. The Youth Corps (''Seinendan'') was thereafter created to foster a moral, sense of civic duty among the people, with the overall purpose of destroying the ''meiboka'' system.
In 1925 Konoe and these officials formed the Alliance for a New Japan (''Shin Nippon Domei'') which endorsed the concept of representative government, but rejected the value of party and local village bosses, instead advocating that new candidates from outside the parties should run for office. The Association for Election Purification (''Senkyo Shukusei Domeikai'') was also created, an organization whose purpose was to circumvent and weaken pork barrel local politics by supporting candidates that were not beholden to ''meiboka'' bosses, the alliance even formed a political party (''meiseikai'') which was unable to secure backing, and was dissolved within two years of formation, in 1928.
Road to First Premiership
In the 1920s Japanese foreign policy was largely in line with Anglo-American policy, the treaty of Versailles, the Washington Naval Conference
treaty, and there was agreement between the great powers over the establishment of an independent Chinese State. A flourishing party system controlled the cabinet in alliance with industry. The great depression of 1930's, the rise Soviet military power in the east, further insistence on limitations to Japanese naval power, and increased Chinese resistance to Japanese aggression in Asia, marked the abandonment of Japanese cooperation with the Anglo-American powers. The Japanese government began to seek autonomy in foreign policy, and as the sense of crisis deepened, unity and mobilization became overreaching imperatives.
Konoe assumed the vice presidency of the house of peers in 1931. In 1932 political parties lost control of the cabinet, henceforth cabinets were formed by alliances of representatives from political elites and military factions, the government increased suppression of political parties and what remained of the left wing, as Japan mobilized its resources for war.
Konoe ascended to the presidency of the house of peers in 1933, his efforts in the mid 1930s focusing on political mediation among elite political factions, elite policy consensus and national unity. He sent his eldest son Fumitaka
to study in the US, at Princeton
, wishing to prepare him for politics and make him an able proponent of Japan in America. Fumimaro had not been educated abroad due to his father's poor financial situation, although most of his elite contemporaries were. He visited Fumitaka in 1934 and he was shocked by rising anti-Japanese sentiment, this experience deepened his resentment of the US, which he perceived as selfish, and racist, he additionally blamed the US for its failure to avert economic disaster. In a speech in 1935 Konoe said that the "''monopolization''" of resources by the Anglo-American alliance must end and be replaced by an "''international new deal''" to help countries like Japan take care of their growing populations.
Konoe remained consistent since Versailles, he saw Japan as the equal and the rival of the western powers, believed that Japan had a right to expansion in China, believed that expansion was survival, and still held that the "''Anglo-American powers were hypocrites seeking to enforce their economic dominance of the world while denying Japan the right to survive as a great power''."
Prime Minister and war with China
left|President of the House of Peers, 1936
Despite his tutelage with the liberal leaning Saionji Kinmochi, his study of socialism at university, and his support of universal suffrage, he seemed to have had a contradictory attraction to fascism, which angered and alarmed the ageing ''genro'', for instance he was reported to have dressed as Hitler
at a costume party before Saionji's daughter was married in 1937. Despite these misgivings Saionji nominated Konoe to the emperor, and in June 1937 Konoe became Prime Minister. Konoe spent the short time between then and war with China attempting to secure pardons for the ultra-nationalist leaders of the 26 February incident
, leaders who had attempted to assassinate his mentor Saionji. Konoe retained the military, and legal ministers from the previous cabinet upon assumption of the premiership, and refused to take ministers from the political parties, he was not interesting in resurrecting party government. One month later, Japanese troops clashed with Chinese troops near Peking in the Marco Polo Bridge Incident
, a consensus emerged among Japanese military leadership that the nation was not ready for war with China, and a truce was made on 11 July. The ceasefire was broken by 20 July after Konoe's government sent more divisions to China, causing full-scale war to erupt.
In November 1937 Konoe instituted a new system of joint conference between the civil government and the military called liaison conferences
. In attendance at these liaison meetings were the prime minister, the foreign minister, the ministers of the army and navy and their chiefs of general staff. This arrangement resulted in an imbalance in favor of the military since each member in attendance had an equal say in policymaking.
Prior to the capture on Nanjing, Chang Kai Shek
through the German ambassador in China attempted to negotiate, however Konoe rejected the overture. Shortly after the Nanjing massacre
, Konoe issued a statement in January 1938 where he declared that "''Kuomintang aggression had not ceased despite its defeat''" that it was "''subjecting its people to great misery''" and that Japan would no longer deal with Chang, six days later he gave a speech where he blamed China for the continued conflict.
After taking Nanking, the Japanese Army was doubtful about its ability to advance up the Yangtze river valley, and favoured taking up a German offer of mediation to end the war with China. Konoe by contrast, was not interested in peace, and instead chose to escalate the war by suggesting deliberately humiliating terms that he knew Chiang Kai-shek would never accept, to win a "total victory" over China. In January 1938, Konoe's government announced that it would no longer deal with Chiang, but would await the development of a new regime. When later asked for clarifications, Konoe said he meant more than just non-recognition of Chiang's regime but "rejected it" and would "eradicate it". The American historian Gerhard Weinberg wrote about Konoe's escalation of the war: "The one time in the decade between 1931 and 1941 that the civilian authorities in Tokyo mustered the energy, courage and ingenuity to overrule the military on a major peace issue they did so with fatal results-fatal for Japan, fatal for China, and for Konoe himself".
Japan had lost a large amount of its gold reserves by late 1937, due to trade imbalance, and Konoe believed that a new economic system geared toward exploitation of northern China's resources was the only way to stop this economic deterioration, he rejected US "open door policy as he had since Versailles, but left open possible western interests in southern China. In a declaration on November 3, 1938, Konoe said Japan seeks a new order in east Asia, that Chiang no longer spoke for China, that Japan would reconstruct China without help from foreign powers, and that a "''tripartite relationship of . . . Japan, Manchukuo
, and China''" would "''create a new culture, and realize close economic cohesion throughout east Asia''."
In April 1938 Konoe and the military pushed a National Mobilization Law
through the Diet which declared a state of emergency, allowed the central government to control all manpower and material, and rationed the flow of raw materials into the Japanese market. Japanese victories continued at Xuzhou, Hankow, Canton, Wuchang, Hanyang – but still the Chinese kept on fighting. Konoe resigned in January 1939, and was appointed chairman of the Privy Council
. He left a war that he had a large part in making to be finished by someone else, which bewildered the Japanese public as they had been told that the war was an endless series of victories. Kiichirō Hiranuma
succeeded him as Prime Minister. Konoe was awarded the 1st class of the Order of the Rising Sun
Konoe's second term, the Matsuoka foreign policy
Due to dissatisfaction with the policies of Prime Minister Mitsumasa Yonai
, the Japanese Army demanded Konoe's return as Prime Minister. On 23 June, Konoe resigned his position as Chairman of the Privy Council, and on 16 July 1940, the Yonai cabinet resigned and Konoe was appointed Prime Minister. One of his first moves was to launch the League of Diet Members Supporting the Prosecution of the Holy War
to counter opposition from politicians such as deputy Saitō Takao
who had spoken against the Second Sino-Japanese War
in the Diet on 2 February.
Yonai had refused to align Japan with the Nazis, in response the army minister Shunroku Hata
resigned and the army refused to nominate a replacement. Konoe was recalled after Saionji for the last time before his death later that year endorsed Konoe one last time, upon his return Konoe set out to end the war in with China, and by way of the New Order Movement remove the political parties from control of government. Konoe successfully ended the political parties that year, thereby aiding the pro war factions in the military, he deemed the parties as too liberal, and divisive. The Imperial Rule Assistance Association
(IRAA) was created in 1940 under Konoe as a wartime mobilization organization, ironically in alliance with local ''meiboka'', since their cooperation was required to mobilize the rural population. Konoe's government pressured political parties to dissolve into the IRAA, he resisted calls to form a political party akin to Nazi party, believing it would revive the political strife of the 1920s, instead he worked to promote the IRAA as the sole political order, additionally believing that becoming the head of a political party would be beneath the dignity of a nobleman.
The Japanese invasion of French Indochina
was planned by the army before Konoe was recalled as prime minister. The invasion would secure needed resources to wage war with China, cut off western supply of Kuomintang
armies, put the Japanese military in a strategic location to threaten more territory, and would hopefully intimidate the Dutch East Indies
into supplying Japan with oil. The US responded with the Export Control Act
, and increased aid to Chang, despite this response foreign minister Yosuke Matsuoka
signed the Tripartite Pact
on 27 September 1940 over the objection of some of Konoe's advisors including former Japanese ambassador to the US Kikujiro Ishii
. In an 4 October press conference Konoe said that the US should not misunderstand the intentions of the tripartite powers, and should help them to build a new world order, additionally he said that if the US did not end its provocative actions, and deliberately chose to misunderstand the actions of the tripartite powers, there would be no option left but war. In November 1940 Japan signed the Sino-Japanese treaty with Wang Jinwei
who had been a disciple of Sun Yat-sen, and was the head of a rival Kuomintang government in Nanjing, Konoe's Government did not relinquish all held territory to Jinwei's government, undercut its authority, and it was largely seen as an illegitimate puppet. In December 1940 the British reopened the Burma road and lent 10 million pounds to Chang's Kuomintang. Konoe recommenced negotiations with the Dutch in January 1941 in an attempt to secure an alternate source of oil.
In February 1941 Konoe chose Admiral Nomura
as Japanese ambassador to the US. Matsuoka and Stalin
signed the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact
in Moscow on 13 April 1941, which made it clear that the Soviets would not help the allies in the event of war with Japan. On 18 April 1941 word arrived from Nomura of a diplomatic breakthrough, a draft of understanding between the US and Japan. The basis of this agreement had been drafted by two American Maryknoll
priests James Edward Walsh
, and James M. Drought, through the postmaster general Frank C. Walker
the priests met with Roosevelt. The outline of the proposal, which had been drafted in consultation with banker Tadao Ikawa, Colonel Hideo Iwakura
, and Nomura, included American recognition of Manchukuo, the merging of Chiang's government with the Japanese backed Reorganized National Government of China
, normalization of trade relations, withdrawal of Japanese troops from China, mutual respect for Chinese independence, and an agreement that Japanese immigration to the United States would proceed on the basis of equality with other nationals free from discrimination.
When Matsuoka returned to Tokyo a liaison conference was held, during which he voiced his opposition to the draft of understanding, believing it would betray their Nazi allies, he thought that Japan should let Germany see this draft, he then left the meeting citing exhaustion, Konoe also retreated to his villa claiming a fever instead of forcing the issue Matsuoka pushed for an immediate attack on British Singapore
and began to openly criticise Konoe and his cabinet, it was becoming suspected that he wanted to replace Konoe as prime minister. Matsuoka changed the US draft into a counteroffer which essentially gutted most of the Japanese concessions in regard to China and expansion in the Pacific then had Nomura deliver it to Washington.
On Sunday, 22 June 1941, Hitler broke the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact
by invading the Soviet Union, coinciding with the invasion, Cordell Hull
delivered another amendment of the draft on understanding to the Japanese, but this time there was no recognition of the Japanese right to control of Manchukuo, the new draft also completely rejected the Japanese right of military expansion in the pacific. Hull included a statement which in summary said that as long as Japan was allied to Hitler an agreement would be next to impossible to achieve, he did not specifically mention Matsuoka, but it was implied that he would have to be removed, the foreign minister was now advocating an immediate attack on the Soviet Union, and did so directly to the emperor. Konoe was forced to apologize to the emperor and assure him that Japan was not about to go to war with the Soviet Union. Masanobu Tsuji
had planned to assassinate Konoe if peace had occurred with the United States in order for Japan to attack the Soviet Union, who was at war with Japan's ally Germany.
Matsuoka was convinced that Barbarossa
would be a quick German victory and he was now opposed to attacking Singapore because he believed it would provoke war with the western allies. After a series of liaison conferences where Matsuoka argued forcefully in favour of an attack against the Soviet Union and against further expansion southward, the decision was made to invade and occupy the southern half of French Indochina, which was formalized in an imperial conference on 2 July. Included in this imperial conference resolution was a statement that Japan would not flinch from war with the US and Britain if necessary. Beginning on 10 July Konoe held a series of liaison conferences to discuss the Japanese response to Hull's latest amendment to the draft of understanding. It was decided that a reply would not be given until the Japanese takeover of southern Indochina was complete, hoping that if it went peacefully, perhaps the US could be convinced to tolerate the occupation without intervention. On 14 July Matsuoka drafted a response through illness which said Japan would not abandon the tripartite pact, he attacked Hull's statement which had been aimed largely at him, and the next day he sent the response to Germany for approval. Sending the draft to the Germans without the cabinet's permission was the final straw which led Konoe and his entire cabinet to resign en masse and reform the government without Matsuoka on 16 July, Matsuoka did not attend this emergency cabinet meeting due to illness.
Third government and attempt to avoid war with the United States
Konoe's third government was formally created on 18 July, with admiral Teijiro Toyoda
as foreign minister. The Roosevelt administration hoped that Matsuoka's dismissal would mean Japan was standing down from continued aggressive action; these hopes were dashed when the French government, after being threatened with military action, allowed the Japanese army to occupy all of French Indochina on 22 July, two days later the US cut off negotiations and froze Japanese assets, the British, Dutch, and Canadian governments following suit shortly thereafter. The same day Roosevelt cut off negotiations, he met with Nomura where he told the ambassador that if Japan would agree to pull out of Indochina, and agree to its being granted a status of neutrality, Japanese assets could be unfrozen. Roosevelt implied that Japanese expansion in China would be tolerated, but that Indochina was a red line, he also expressed how he was disturbed that Japan could not see that Hitler was bent on world domination. Konoe did not take aggressive action in implementing Roosevelt's offer, he was not able to restrain militarists led by Hideki Tojo
who as minister of war regarded the seizure as irreversible due to its approval by the emperor.
On 28 July the Japanese began to formally occupy southern Indochina. In response on 1 August the US embargoed oil exports to Japan. Finding a replacement source of petroleum was paramount, as the US supplied 93% of Japan's oil in 1940. Navy chief of staff Osami Nagano
informed the Emperor that Japan's oil stockpiles would be completely depleted in two years. Konoe's cabinet failed to foresee the US embargo oil as a result of their occupation of southern French Indochina. On 1 August Hachiro Arita
wrote Konoe a letter which told him that he should not have let the military occupy southern Indochina while negotiations with the US were still ongoing, Konoe responded that the ships were already dispatched and could not turn back in time, and that all he could do was pray for "divine intervention".
On 6 August Konoe's government announced that it would only pull out of Indochina when the war in China was concluded, rejected Roosevelt's neutralization proposal, but promised not to expand further and asked for US mediation in ending the war in China. On 8 August Konoe requested through Nomura, a meeting with Roosevelt, the suggestion came from Kinkazu Saionji
the grandson of his deceased mentor Saionji Kinmochi who advised Konoe through a monthly informal breakfast club, where Konoe consulted with civilian elites about policy. Hotsumi Ozaki
, who was a friend and advisor to Konoe, was a member of this same breakfast club; he was also a member of Richard Sorge
's soviet spy ring.
Nomura met with Roosevelt and told him about Konoe's summit proposal, after condemning Japanese aggression in Indochina Roosevelt said he was open to the meeting, and suggested they could meet in Juneau, Alaska. On 3 September a liaison conference was held where it was decided that Konoe would continue to seek peace with Roosevelt, but at the same time Japan would commit to war if a peace agreement did not materialize by mid October, also that Japan would not abandon the tripartite pact. Konoe, Saionji, and his supporters had drafted a proposal which emphasized a willingness to withdraw troops from China, however Konoe did not introduce this proposal, but instead acceded to a proposal from the foreign ministry, the difference in the proposals being that the foreign ministry's was conditioned on an agreement being reached between China and Japan before troops would be withdrawn.
On 5 September Konoe met the emperor with chiefs of staff General Hajime Sugiyama
and Admiral Osami Nagano to inform him of the cabinet's decision to commit to war in the absence of a diplomatic breakthrough, alarmed the emperor asked what happened to the negotiations with Roosevelt, he asked Konoe to change the emphasis from war to negotiation, Konoe replied that would be politically impossible, the emperor then asked why he had been kept in the dark about these military preparations. The emperor then questioned Sugiyama about the chances of success of an open war with the Occident. After Sugiyama answered positively, Hirohito scolded him, remembering that the Army had predicted that the invasion of China would be completed in only three months.
On 6 September the emperor approved the cabinet's decision at an imperial conference after being given assurance by the two chiefs of staff that diplomacy was the primary emphasis, with war only as a fall back option in the event of diplomatic failure. That same evening, Konoe arranged a dinner in secrecy with US ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew
(on 15 August, Hiranuma Kiichiro
who was a member of his cabinet, and a previous prime minister, had been shot six times by an ultra-nationalist because he was seen as too close to Grew) Konoe told Grew that he was prepared to travel to meet Roosevelt on a moment's notice, Grew then urged his superiors to advise Roosevelt to accept the summit proposal.
The day after the imperial conference Konoe arranged a meeting between Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni
and army minister Tojo, which was an attempt to bring the war hawk in line with Konoe. Higashikuni told Tojo that since the emperor and Konoe favoured negotiation over war, the army minister should too, and that he should quit if he could not follow a policy of non-confrontation. Tojo replied that if the western encirclement of Japan were to be accepted, Japan would cease to exist, Tojo believed that even if there was only a small chance of winning a war with the US, Japan must prepare for it and wage it rather than be encircled and destroyed.
On 10 September Nomura met with Hull and was told by him that the latest Japanese offer was a non-starter, and that Japan would have to make concessions in regard to China before the summit meeting could take place. On 20 September a liaison meeting passed a revised proposal that actually hardened conditions for a withdrawal from China. At the liaison conference of 25 September, sensing that summit negotiations were stalling, Tojo and the militarists pressed the cabinet to commit to an actual deadline for war of 15 October. After this meeting Konoe told lord keeper of the privy seal Koichi Kido
that he was going to resign, but Kido talked him out of it, Konoe then secluded himself in a villa at Kamakura until 2 October, leaving foreign minister Toyoda to take charge of negotiations in his absence. Toyoda asked ambassador Grew to tell Roosevelt that Konoe would only be able to grant concessions at the summit, but could not commit beforehand due to the influence of the militarists, and the risk that any conciliation beforehand would be leaked to the Germans in an effort to bring down the Konoe cabinet. Grew argued in favour of the summit to Roosevelt in a communication of 29 September.
On 1 October, Konoe summoned navy minister Oikawa
to Kamakura, where he secured his commitment of cooperation in acceptance American demands, the navy being acutely aware of the long odds of victory in the event to war with the US. Oikawa returned to Tokyo and seemed to secure the cooperation of navy chief of staff Nagano, including Toyoda as foreign minister they formed a potential majority in the next liaison conference. On 2 October Hull delivered to Nomura a statement constituting the preconditions for a summit meeting, Hull made it clear that the Japanese army would have to demonstrate that they were going to pull troops out of French Indochina and China.
At the liaison conference of 4 October, Hull's response was still being processed and could not be fully discussed, Nagano changed his position and now agreed with the army and advocated a deadline for war, Konoe and Oikawa were largely silent, and did not try to bring him back to the side of negotiation, a final decision was further postponed. The army and the navy were in opposition to each other and held separate high level meetings each respectively confirming their resolve to either go to war, or pull back from the brink, however Nagano continued to oppose open confrontation of the army, while Oikawa did not want to take the lead as the only member of the liaison conference to oppose war.
Konoe met privately with Tojo twice, in a failed attempt to convince him to a troop withdrawal, and to take the war option off the table on 5 and 7 October. In the 7 October meeting Konoe told Tojo that "''military men take wars too lightly''", Tojo's response was "''occasionally one must gather up enough courage, close one's eyes and jump off the platform of the Kiyomizu
''", Konoe responded that was okay for the individual "''but if I think of the national polity that has lasted twenty six hundred years and of the hundred million Japanese belonging to this nation, I, as a person in the position of great responsibility, cannot do such a thing''". The next day Tojo met with Oikawa, and showed some doubt when he told him that it would be a betrayal of those who had already died in the war for the army to pull troops out of China, but that he was also worried about the many more who would die in an eventual war with the US, and that he was considering a troop withdrawal.
Konoe held a meeting on 12 October with military ministers Tojo, Oikawa, and the foreign minister Toyoda, which became known as the Tekigaiso conference
. Konoe began by saying that he had no confidence in the war they were about to wage and would not lead it, but neither Oikawa or Konoe was willing to take the lead in demanding the army agree to taking the war option off the table, Toyoda was the only member willing to declare that the imperial conference of 6 September was a mistake, implying that the war option should be taken off the table, while Tojo forcefully argued that an imperial resolution could not be violated.
On 14 October one day before the deadline, Konoe and Tojo met one last time, where Konoe attempted to impress upon Tojo the need to stand down from war, and accede to US demands for a military withdrawal from China and Indochina, Tojo ruled a troop withdrawal as out of the question. In the cabinet meeting that followed Tojo declared that the decision of the imperial conference had been thoroughly deliberated, that hundreds of thousands of troops were being moved south as they spoke, that if diplomacy were to continue they must be sure that it would result in success, and that the imperial edict had specifically declared that negotiations must bear fruit by early October (which meant the deadline had already been passed), after this conference Tojo went to see lord keeper of the privy seal Kido, to push for Konoe's resignation.
That same evening Tojo sent Teiichi Suzuki
(at that time the head of the cabinet planning board) to Konoe with a message urging him to resign, stating that if he resigned Tojo would endorse prince Higashikuni as the next prime minister, Suzuki told Konoe that Tojo realized now that the navy was unwilling to admit that it could not fight the US, he also told Konoe that Tojo believed the current cabinet must resign and bear the responsibility of wrongfully calling for the imperial indict, and only someone of Higashikuni's imperial background could reverse it. The next day on 15 October Konoe's friend and advisor Hotsumi Ozaki was exposed and arrested as a soviet spy.
Konoe resigned on 16 October 1941, one day after having recommended Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni
to the Emperor as his successor. Two days later, Hirohito chose General Tōjō as Prime Minister. In 1946, Hirohito explained this decision: "I actually thought Prince Higashikuni suitable as chief of staff of the Army; but I think the appointment of a member of the imperial house to a political office must be considered very carefully. Above all, in time of peace this is fine, but when there is a fear that there may even be a war, then more importantly, considering the welfare of the imperial house, I wonder about the wisdom of a member of the imperial family serving s prime minister
" Six weeks later, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.
Konoe justified his demission to his secretary Kenji Tomita. "Of course His Imperial Majesty is a pacifist and he wished to avoid war. When I told him that to initiate war was a mistake, he agreed. But the next day, he would tell me: 'You were worried about it yesterday but you do not have to worry so much.' Thus, gradually he began to lead to war. And the next time I met him, he leaned even more to war. I felt the Emperor was telling me: 'My prime minister does not understand military matters. I know much more.' In short, the Emperor had absorbed the view of the army and the navy high commands."
Post premiership, final years of the war and suicide
On 29 November 1941, at a luncheon with the emperor with all living former prime ministers in attendance, Konoe voiced his objection to war. Upon hearing of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Konoe said regarding Japan's military success, "What on earth? I really feel a miserable defeat coming, this will only last 2 or 3 months."
Konoe played a role in the fall of the Tōjō government in 1944. In February 1945, during the first private audience he had been allowed in three years, he advised the Emperor to begin negotiations to end World War II
. According to Grand Chamberlain Hisanori Fujita
, Shōwa, still looking for a ''tennozan'' (a great victory), firmly rejected Konoe's recommendation.
[Fujita Hisanori, ''Jijûchô no kaisô'', Chûô Kôronsha, 1987, p.66–67, Bix, ibid., p.489]
After the beginning of the American occupation, Konoe served in the cabinet of Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni, the first post-war government. Having refused to collaborate with U.S. Army officer Bonner Fellers
in "Operation Blacklist" to exonerate Shōwa and the imperial family of criminal responsibility, he came under suspicion of war crime
s. In December 1945, during the last call by the Americans for alleged war criminals to report to the Americans, he took potassium cyanide
poison and committed suicide. His grave is at the Konoe clan cemetery at the temple of Daitoku-ji
His grandson, Morihiro Hosokawa
, became prime minister fifty years later.
* Events leading to the attack on Pearl Harbor
* Connors, Lesley. ''The Emperor's Advisor: Saionji Kinmochi and Pre-War Japanese Politics'', Croom Helm, London, and Nissan Institute for Japanese Studies, University of Oxford, 1987
* Iriye, Akira. ''The Origins of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific'', Longman, London and New York, 1987.
* Jansen, Marius B.
(2000). ''The Making of Modern Japan.'' Cambridge: Harvard University Press
* Lash, Joseph P. ''Roosevelt and Churchill, 1939–1941'', W. W. Norton and Co, New York, 1976.
* Oka, Yoshitake. ''Konoe Fumimaro: A Political Biography'', Translated by Shumpei Okamoto and Patricia Murray, University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo, Japan, 1983.
External linksKonoe biography from Spartacus EducationalAnnotated bibliography for Fumimaro Konoe from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
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