Koki Hirota

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Koki Hirota (1878-1948) Japanese was diplomat, foreign minister, and briefly Prime Minister of Japan after the February 26, 1936 Incident. He was only civilian official sentenced to death by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East

After graduation from Tokyo University, he entered the Foreign Ministry. In 1923, he became director of the Europe and America Department. He served as minister to Holland, ambassador to the Soviet Union, and in other diplomatic posts.[1]

He replaced the foreign minister, Uchida, in the Saito cabinet of 1933. He remained in that position in the Okada cabinet.


While Ambassador to the Soviet Union, in September, he was receiving proposals for a nonaggression pact while his military attache sent a message to the General Staff saying it was unavoidable that Japan would clas with the Soviets. "Considering the capacity of the USSR for national defense and the situation of the other power, the sooner the Soviet-Japanese War comes, the better for us." It is not known whether Hirota supported this position. [2]


In March 1936, he became Prime Minister in the reorganization of the cabinet just after the February 26 Incident, but the cabinet resigned en masse the following January. In the same year, he became a member of the House of Peers.

After the Feb. 26 Incident, Hirota, as prime minister,

made a series of decisions that would sow the seeds of future strife. The decisions included one to restore a system under which military officers in active service took up the posts of war and navy ministers, another on the policy guidelines that set the stage for the nation's advance into Southeast Asia and another on the signing of the Japan-Germany accord on defense cooperation that was aimed at containing the Soviet Union.[3]

Following advice from the Army and Navy ministers, he changed the policy, in May 1936, of only appointing military ministers from the active duty, not reserve, list. His explanation was this limited the possibility of a return of the Imperial Way Faction, but it was used by the Army to overthrow the 1940 Konoe government. [4] He had considered Shigeru Yoshida as Foreign Minister, but the military objected to him as too pro-American.


In the first Konoe cabinet, he became foreign minister.

Foreign Minister Koki Hirota, along with Konoe, remained silent during a meeting of related ministers that decided to send the first three army divisions. Hirota and Konoe also did not voice any objection during a subsequent Cabinet meeting. Together with War Minister Hajime Sugiyama and Navy Minister Mitsumasa Yonai, Hirota also called for an end to peace negotiations with the Nationalist government. Throughout the period during which the Marco Polo Bridge Incident expanded into the Sino-Japanese War, Hirota stood at the diplomatic helm, first serving as foreign minister, then prime minister and again as foreign minister.[3]


On 16 July, he participatted in a meeting that supported Prince Konoye as Prime Minister of Japan, replacing Mitsumasa Yonai.[5]


Hirota was one of the pro-war minority at the 29 November "Sequence of Administrative Procedures to be Taken Regarding the Declaration of War" meeting. [6]


Just before the start of the Battle of Iwo Jima and six weeks before the Battle of Okinawa, Hirohito met with former Lord Privy Seal Makinoo, and six former prime ministers — Hiranuma, Hirota , Reijiro Wakatsuki, Okada and Fumimaro Konoe. They recommended continuing the war; Hiranuma and Hirota specifically mentioned fighting to the end while others suggesting finding an opportune moment. [7]


  1. "Hirota, Koki", National Diet Library
  2. Harris & Harris, p. 158
  3. 3.0 3.1 "WAR RESPONSIBILITY--delving into the past (2) / Konoe, Hirota sat on their hands", The Yomiuri Shimbu, (Aug. 13, 2006)
  4. Bix, p. 306
  5. Bix, p. 373
  6. Bix, p. 430
  7. Bix, pp. 487-488