Kantaro Suzuki was a Japanese admiral and political leader. He was the last Prime Minister of Japan before its surrender in 1945, serving from 7 April to 17 August, and being replaced by Prince Higashikuni.
Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1887, he served in the First Sino-Japanese War.
In 1898, he graduated from the Naval War College. He took part in the Battle of the Japan Sea during the Russo-Japanese War.
Rising in the Naval staff, he headed the Personnel Bureau at the Navy Ministry, was vice navy minister in the second Okuma cabinet, commandant of the Japanese Naval Academy, commander-in-chief of Kure Naval Division, and then Commander-in-Chief, Combined Fleet. He became chief of the Naval General Staff Office in 1925.
He became a Palace official in 1929, with dual appointments as Grand Chamberlain and Privy Councilor.
After escaping death, in the role of Grand Chamberlain, in the February 26, 1936 Incident, he retired from public life, returned as member of the Privy Council in 1944, and became Prime Minister in 1945.
By May 1945, he recognized Japan was running out of resources. When Germany surrendered, Japan became further isolated, yet he did not call for immediate negotiations. He probably could not do so, since the Army especially, and other hard-liners, still could block Cabinet action. The military generally felt that accepting the Potsdam Declaration would not assure continuation of the Throne, the essence of kokutai, the national polity.
He did not immediately respond to the Declaration, although subordinate officials mentioned that the government was treating it with mokusatsu. This unfortunately ambiguous Japanese word can variously mean "ignore"(literally "kill with silence"), or "study carefully".
Several hard-line members of the government demanded he actually respond, and it was reported that he told a pres conference that it was a "rehash of the Cairo Declaration. The government does not think it has serious value. We can only ignore it. We whall do our utmost to see the war through to the bitter end."
- WAR RESPONSIBILITY--delving into the past (4) / Were A-bombings avoidable?, Yomiuri Shimbun, 19 August 2005
- Mokusatsu: One Word, Two Lessons, National Security Agency
- Max Hastings (2007), Retribution: the Battle for Japan, 1944-1995, Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 9780307263513, pp. 471-422