Japan WWII foreign minister asked Holy See to avert war with U.S.

Japan’s foreign minister during World War II met with Pope Pius XII and his secretary of state to seek mediation in a desperate bid to avert war with the United States eight months before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, according to Vatican documents recently seen by Kyodo News. to show.

Yosuke Matsuoka wanted the Holy See to talk to President Franklin D. Roosevelt to try to prevent a “war of mutual destruction,” telling Cardinal Luigi Maglione that Tokyo also wanted a truce with China after more than three years of war, according to the summary. cardinal’s office at the meeting between the two on April 2, 1941.

Yosuke Matsuoka, Japanese Foreign Minister from 1940 to 1941. (Kyodo)

Matsuoka, who was Japan’s top diplomat from 1940 to 1941 and was indicted as a war criminal after World War II, said the US leader would be able to bring peace to the Far East by mediating on behalf of Japan with Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek. shek, according to the documents.

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Matsuoka held discussions with the pope before meeting the cardinal, but what the pope said during the discussion remains unknown to the public.

Relations between Washington and Tokyo, already strained, worsened significantly after Japan began the full-scale Sino-Japanese War in 1937, which later overlapped with Japan’s military advances in European colonies in Southeast Asia. The country’s alliances with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy further exacerbated hostilities.

Matsuoka is said to have told the cardinal that he did not want the war to escalate – by then it had been fought in Asia, Europe and Africa. A U.S.-Japan conflict would “destroy the current civilization” because neither would hesitate to use extreme measures, both sides determined to win, he said.

It would be “very helpful” if the Catholic Church could convince the United States to refrain from war and “provocative actions” against Japan, the Vatican summary said.

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The diplomat, who spent his formative years in the United States and received a law degree from the University of Oregon, also claimed that the September 1940 Tripartite Pact between Tokyo, Berlin and Rome, which he concluded, was designed to prevent a fight against the United States so as not to provoke the country.

Matsuoka asked the Holy See to persuade Roosevelt to “intervene with his high authority” with Chiang to get him to “understand Japan,” explaining that it was not fighting against China and its people, but against the Communists.

The Vatican notes do not give details of the settlement Tokyo is seeking from China, but it says that a Japanese diplomat has confirmed that he hopes to “conclude peace within one month” even without Roosevelt’s help.

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Maglione told the foreign minister that the Vatican “will do everything in its power for peace as soon as there is a chance of success in its efforts,” according to the document.

Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, prompting the United States to declare war on the country the following day and formally enter the conflict.

After his country’s surrender in 1945, Matsuoka was arrested and indicted as a Class A war criminal by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, but he died of illness in 1946 before the trial ended.

According to historian and author Satoshi Hattori, Matsuoka began researching ways to salvage Tokyo’s relationship with the United States around December 1940 after realizing that Japan’s military advance to the south would fail.

He said the document demonstrates Matsuoka’s last-minute attempts to avoid war with the United States through all possible channels.



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