• Kyodo

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A Japanese national who spied for the Soviet Union notified the Kremlin in 1941 that Tokyo was planning to start a war against the United States, a confidential Soviet intelligence document shows.

The spy, code-named “economist,” was mentioned in a special report submitted to Joseph Stalin and Foreign Minister Viachislav Molotov on Sept. 9, 1941, by the chief of the Soviet secret police, or the NKVD, the predecessor to the KGB.

According to a copy of the report, obtained recently by Kyodo News, the spy reported to the NKVD that Japanese Commerce and Industry Minister Seizo Sakonji told another government official over lunch on Sept. 2, 1941, that Japan would enter “a grave phase” in September or October if negotiations with the United States to seek a diplomatic solution failed.

The spy also quoted Sakonji as saying Japan would maintain peace with the Soviet Union in view of the deteriorating relations with Washington.

Four days after the lunch, the Japanese government adopted its war policy at a conference attended by Emperor Showa.

Under the policy, Japan set early October as its deadline for ending negotiations with the United States while deciding to complete preparations for war by late October.

The Japanese government’s moves as reported by the spy roughly matched the actual sequence of events leading up to the Dec. 8, 1941, start of the war between Japan and the United States.

The spy’s identity remains unknown.

Whether Japan would start a war against the United States or against the Soviet Union was a primary concern for Moscow, which wanted Japan to choose war against Washington as the Soviets needed to focus on battling Germany.

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