In November 1936, Japan concluded the German-Japanese Anti-Comintern Pact. This was followed by the German-Japanese-Italian Anti-Comintern Pact in November 1937.
At the time of the agreement, the emphasis was on anticommunism in consideration of Japan’s diplomatic relations with Britain and France. However, Germany and Italy were among the few nations friendly with Japan, which had become increasingly isolated in international society following the invasion of China, the establishment of Manchukuo, and Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations.
In international politics, while Great Britain and France were oriented toward maintaining the status quo, Japan, as a “have-not” nation, tended to seek territorial expansion through military force.
Furthermore, Japan, with the end of the Taisho democracy and its growing anti-democratic and anti-liberal tendencies in domestic politics, came to be regarded by both Germany and Italy, as well as by the international community, as a country that was systematically close to Germany and Italy.
On September 27, 1940, the Axis powers – Germany, Italy, and Japan – signed a trilateral agreement in Berlin to strengthen their alliance. The pact was actually a Nazi attempt to mobilize Eastern European troops before the outbreak of the Pacific War. But why would Japan, a non-European country, participate?
The Trilateral Agreement guaranteed that if one member of the Alliance were attacked by one of the countries, all Alliance members were obligated to provide assistance. The two major recognitions in the treaty were that Japan recognized the leadership of Germany and Italy in establishing a new order in Europe and that Japan was given power over Greater East Asia.
Subsequently, the belligerents that sided with Germany and Japan in World War II were called the Axis powers.
The reasons why Japan joined the Axis powers were:
By forming a military alliance with the Soviet Union, Japan hoped to establish a Japanese-German-Italian-Soviet military bloc to deter U.S. interference in Japan’s southward expansion policy.
However, Japan-U.S. relations deteriorated because of the military alliance with Germany. The latter nation was at war with the U.S.’s ally, Great Britain.
The year after the Tripartite Pact was concluded, Japan signed the “Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact” to coordinate diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.
This was an attempt to restore relations with the U.S. by having the four countries of Japan, Germany, the Soviet Union, and Italy check the U.S.
However, this plan was squandered when Germany violated the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and proceeded to invade the Soviet Union.
Also, despite Japan’s intentions, the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact led the U.S. to become increasingly wary of Japan.
Additionally, Germany feared that the U.S. would enter World War II. If the U.S. joined the British side, there was no way to win. Therefore, Germany proposed an alliance with Japan and Italy.
The Axis powers are the countries that fought against the Allied powers during World War II. Specifically, the Axis powers are the Tripartite Pact of Germany, Japan, and Italy; the Eastern European countries of Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria; and the countries of Finland, Thailand, and Iraq. Other states not recognized by the Allies include the Second Republic of the Philippines, Burma, the Slovak Republic, the Independent State of Croatia, Manchuria, and the Nanjing government of the Republic of China. All of these are not recognized as being included in the Axis powers because they are considered puppet regimes of Japan, Germany, Italy, and others.
The Axis powers shared the common grounds of being a “country without colonies” and anti-communism.