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Ninety years ago, on Sept. 18, 1931, a junior Japanese military officer detonated an explosive that had been carefully laid by a Japanese-owned railroad near the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang (then known in the West as Mukden).

The blast did little damage, but that wasn’t the point. The Japanese blamed Chinese soldiers for the explosion, which they used as a pretext to capture Shenyang and occupy the entire territory, known as Manchuria.

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