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The Japanese Imperial Army invaded the sovereign nation of Manchuria (formerly known as Manchukuo) in 1931 and used it for strategic purposes until 1945. The Manchurian invasion, which began with the Mukden Incident, was one of Japan's first acts of aggression against China prior to World War II.

Reasons for Invasion

During the first three decades of the 20th century, Japan embarked on a modernization campaign that included a massive build-up of its armed forces. It viewed neighboring Asian nations as part of its plan to create a sphere of cooperative prosperity.

At this time, Manchuria existed as a sovereign state with its own monarchy and armed forces. On September 18, 1931, Japanese troops used the pretext of an explosion on the Japanese-controlled South Manchurian Railroad to occupy the Manchurian city of Mukden. Japan followed that up with a sudden invasion of the three eastern provinces of Manchuria. It took the Japanese only three months to cover the entire Manchurian area.

Occupation and Conflict with China

Japan occupied Manchuria unilaterally for the next two years in a strange state of undeclared war. The League of Nations immediately condemned the 1931 invasion as an act of international militarism. In response, Japan voluntarily left the league. The Japanese government then installed a young puppet emperor named Puyi to the Manchurian throne. Puyi, having abdicated the Manchu throne of China as a young child in 1912, never held real power.

Although the armed conflict resulted in 10,000 Japanese and 50,000 Chinese dead by May 1933, an official state of war never existed between the two nations, and official diplomatic ties were never broken. After taking control of Manchuria in 1931 and consolidating its power base over the next year, Japan used it as a launching pad to take parts of inner Mongolia and northern China near Beijing in 1933 and 1934. The Tangku Truce created a superficial peace between Japan and Manchuria in May 1933. However, it failed to dislodge Japan from the nation until the end of World War II.

As the first significant territory taken by Japan prior to World War II, the Manchurian invasion created the conditions for Japan's conquest of China during the Sino-Japanese War of 1937–1945.

Further Reading

Edgerton, Robert B. Warriors of the Rising Sun: A History of the Japanese Military. New York: Norton, 1997; Hsu, Immanuel C. Y. The Rise of Modern China. Oxford University Press, 1999; Tuchman, Barbara Wertheim. Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45. New York: Macmillan, 1970.

MLA Citation

"Manchurian Invasion." World History: The Modern Era, ABC-CLIO, 2019, worldhistory.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/309807. Accessed 19 Mar. 2019.

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Entry ID: 2181011

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