German Special Ambassador Plenipotentiary Joachim von Ribbentrop first proposed such an agreement in 1935, but the Foreign Office and the army opposed it. Since World War I, the Germans had worked to develop a close relationship with China. This pact would nullify these efforts, as Japan and China were at loggerheads over the Japanese takeover of Manchuria. Nevertheless, Adolf Hitler's approval ended discussion. Hitler hoped that the pact would pressure Great Britain not to interfere with Germany's military buildup and his plans for eastward expansion. In any case, British leaders were concerned about the escalating Japanese threat to their interests in the Far East.
Developed from conversations between Ribbentrop and Japanese military attaché Major General Hiroshi Oshima, the pact was Hitler's effort to tie Japan to Germany. Japanese leaders saw it as an important step toward finding an ally in an increasingly hostile world. Alienated from the West by its takeover of Manchuria, Japan was also involved in armed clashes with Soviet forces in the Far East. The Japanese hoped that a pact with Germany would strengthen its position vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. Thus, the wording of the pact was more important to the Japanese than to the Germans.
On the same day, Germany and Japan signed another agreement providing that in case of an unprovoked attack by the Soviet Union against Germany or Japan, the two nations would consult on what measures to take "to safeguard [their] common interests," and in any case they would do nothing to assist the Soviet Union. They also agreed that neither nation would make any political treaties with the Soviet Union. Germany also recognized Manzhouguo (Manchukuo), the Japanese puppet regime in Manchuria.
Germany later employed the Anti-Comintern Pact as a litmus test to determine the loyalty of minor allies. Italy adhered to the pact on 6 November 1937. The pact was renewed in 1941 with 11 other countries as signatories.
To many observers, the pact symbolized Germany's resurgence as the most powerful country in Europe. The threat of global cooperation between Germany and Japan directly imperiled the overextended empires of France and Great Britain. However, the pact, much like Germany's actual capabilities, was more illusion than reality. Both signatories failed to cooperate, and only rarely did one even inform the other of its intentions. An even greater indication of the pact's worthlessness was Hitler's breaking of its terms when he signed the German-Soviet Non-aggression Pact in August 1939. C. J. Horn
Bloch, Michael. Ribbentrop: A Biography. New York: Crown Publishers, 1982.; Boyd, Carl. The Extraordinary Envoy: General Hiroshi Oshima and Diplomacy in the Third Reich, 1934–1939. Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1980.; Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991.; Schroeder, Paul W. The Axis Alliance and Japanese-American Relations, 1941. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1958.
C. J. Horn