William S. Koehler
American and Japan: Road to War

Japanese-American relations in the years prior to the Second World War became strained because of Japanese military aggression in East Asia. President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded to the Japanese aggression with several reactive measures designed to weaken the Japanese ability to make war, specifically war in China. Some historians have suggested that Rooseveltís policy was provocative of the Japanese and was a major cause of the attack at Pearl Harbor. On November 26, 1941 Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, delivered a proposal for the conclusion of hostilities in Asia to the Japanese Ambassador. This note has been called an ultimatum, by some, including the Japanese, and is the linchpin to any argument which attempts to show that Roosevelt was acting in a provocative manner. While the note was aggressive and unacceptable to the Japanese, it did not limit the Japanese to so few choices that they were forced to fight. It was Japanís choice, and ultimately the responsibility lies with them. Though the policy conducted by Roosevelt was certainly aggressive, and was not well received by the Japanese, it was not unduly provocative.