An Axis is Formed: The Tripartite Pact


By: Mark Loproto

On September 27th, 1940, representatives from Japan, Italy, and Germany gathered in Berlin to sign a mutual-defense treaty known as the Tripartite Pact (or the Berlin Pact). The agreement was signed after the outbreak of the war in Europe, largely in response to the expanding American assistance to Britain and their perceived interference in Japan’s affairs against China.

The agreement stated that its members would support one another should any nation not currently at war in Europe, or involved in the Second Sino-Japanese War, attack one of them. In practice, the agreement primarily targeted the United States.

Though the Americans applied increasing diplomatic and economic pressure, Japan was largely unresponsive, forcing the United States to take more drastic measures. With the possibility of armed conflict on the horizon, Japan entered into the agreement with Germany and Italy and agreed on the following six articles:

ARTICLE 1. Japan recognizes and respects the leadership of Germany and Italy in the establishment of a new order in Europe.

ARTICLE 2. Germany and Italy recognize and respect the leadership of Japan in the establishment of a new order in Greater East Asia.

ARTICLE 3. Japan, Germany, and Italy agree to cooperate in their efforts on aforesaid lines. They further undertake to assist one another with all political, economic and military means if one of the Contracting Powers is attacked by a Power at present not involved in the European War or in the Japanese-Chinese conflict.

ARTICLE 4. With a view to implementing the present pact, joint technical commissions, to be appointed by the respective Governments of Japan, Germany, and Italy, will meet without delay.

ARTICLE 5. Japan, Germany, and Italy affirm that the above agreement affects in no way the political status existing at present between each of the three Contracting Powers and Soviet Russia.

ARTICLE 6. The present pact shall become valid immediately upon signature and shall remain in force ten years from the date on which it becomes effective. In due time, before the expiration of said term, the High Contracting Parties shall, at the request of any one of them, enter into negotiations for its renewal.

The third article of the pact was aimed directly at the United States, as if to deter any further actions taken in response to the Second Sino-Japanese conflict. Within four months, however, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto proposed the concept behind the Pearl Harbor attack, a move not anticipated by the Tripartite Pact. Eleven months after the plan to attack Pearl Harbor was brought to the table, it was carried out, launching the War in the Pacific.

Germany, Italy declare war on the United States, 11 December 1941

Germany, Italy declare war on the United States, 11 December 1941

Though Germany and Italy were not explicitly bound by the Tripartite Pact to declare war on the United States, on December 11th, 1941, three days after the United States issued its declaration of war on Japan, Germany declared war on the US. Before that, however, the Axis nations entered into a second pact: the “No Separate Peace” Agreement. Fleshed out on December 8th and signed on December 11th, the new agreement included four articles that stated neither Germany, Italy, nor Japan would agree individually to peace terms with the United States or Britain. At the end of the war, in the case of an Axis victory, it also stated that the three nations would work together to establish the “new order in the world.”

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