Hirota Kôki


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(b. 14 Feb. 1878, d. 23 Dec. 1948).

Prime Minister of Japan 1936–7 Hirota's origins were humble, but after a brilliant academic career as a student at Tokyo University, he had become a career diplomat, serving as ambassador in Moscow. Heading a government formed in the aftermath of the 26 February Incident (1936), Hirota, in his dual role as Foreign Minister, concluded the Tripartite Anti‐Comintern Pact with Germany in 1936 and Italy in 1937 (Axis). He was thus held directly responsible for Japan's later decision to go to war with China first and then the USA and Great Britain. His decision to allow serving military officers to represent the army and navy Cabinet posts also bolstered the political influence of the military. After stepping down from the premiership, Hirota managed to retain the foreign portfolio (1937–9) and his influence was maintained during the war years as a senior member of the political establishment. Although Hirota always maintained that he preferred conciliation to conflict, he played an instrumental part in Japan's Asian war. On that charge he was found guilty and sentenced to hang by the Tokyo Trials for war crimes.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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