Was Waging Aggressive War
Illegal at the Time of the Attack?
Prior to the attack, aggressive war had been prohibited by a number of international treaties and conventions. This movement began with the Hague I Conventions for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes signed on July 29, 1899 and again on October 18, 1907, both of which were signed in the name of the Japanese Emperor. While the prohibitions on aggressive war in these treaties were quite weak, generally consisting of a duty to submit all disputes between member states to mediation or arbitration, they were a beginning. During the post-World War I peace movement, the seeds planted in the Hague I Conventions were brought into force in the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, also signed in the name of the Japanese Emperor.
That Pact was established
in pursuance of a belief that "the time has come when a frank renunciation
of war as an instrument of national policy should be made . . . ."
In the Pact, the parties "condemn recourse to war for the solution of international
controversies, and, renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in
their relations with one another"
and pledge that "the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts
. . . shall never be sought except by pacific means."
As of 1928 then, the waging of aggressive war was contrary to the obligations
of international law. Moreover, this prohibition was reasserted in the
Charter in Article
which can be seen both as an extension of pre-World War II idealism and
as a backlash against the horrors brought about by Axis aggression.