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The Fleet Faction (艦隊派, Kantai-ha) was an unofficial and informal political faction within the Imperial Japanese Navy in the 1920s and 1930s of officers opposed to the conditions imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty.
The Washington Naval Treaty, also known as the Five-Power Treaty, limited the naval armaments of its five signatories: the United States, the British Empire, the Empire of Japan, France, and Italy. The treaty was agreed at the Washington Naval Conference, which was held in Washington, D.C., from November 1921 to February 1922.
The treaty limited the total capital ship tonnage of each of the signatories. No single ship could exceed 35,000 tons, and no ship could carry a gun in excess of 16 inches. Only two large aircraft carriers were permitted per nation. No new fortifications or naval bases could be established, and existing bases and defenses could not be improved in external territories and possessions specified in the treaty. The tonnage allotment to Japan was based on a 5:5:3 ratio, compared with the United States and United Kingdom, with the justification being that these two countries needed to maintain fleets on more than one ocean whereas Japan had only the Pacific Ocean.
The terms of the treaty were extremely unpopular with Japanese public, many of whom saw the 5:5:3 ratio as another way of being regarded as an inferior race by the West.
The Imperial Japanese Navy was split into two opposing factions, the Treaty Faction and the Fleet Faction. The Treaty Faction wanted to stay within the limitations of the Washington Naval Treaty, arguing that Japan could not afford an arms race with the western powers and hoping, through diplomacy, to restore the Anglo-Japanese Alliance.
The Fleet Faction was composed of the political right-wing within the Navy, including many influential admirals in the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff such as Yamamoto Eisuke, Kato Hiroharu, Suetsugu Nobumasa, Sankichi Takahashi and Nagumo Chuichi, and was headed by Prince Fushimi Hiroyasu. The Fleet Faction wanted nullification of the Washington Naval Treaty and unlimited naval growth to build the most powerful navy possible, thus challenging the naval supremacy of the United States and there British Empire.
In the 1920s, the Treaty Faction, which was supported by the Navy Ministry and the civilian government, was predominant. However, with increasing Japanese militarism in the 1930s, the growing conflict with the United States over China, and the blatant disregard for the terms of the Treaty by all major powers, the Fleet Faction gradually gained the upper hand.
On 29 December 1934, the Japanese government gave formal notice that it intended to terminate the treaty. Its provisions remained in force until the end of 1936, but it was not renewed.
- Goldman, Emily O. Sunken Treaties: Naval Arms Control between the Wars. Pennsylvania State U. Press, 1994. 352 pp.
- Erik Goldstein. The Washington Conference, 1921-22: Naval Rivalry, East Asian Stability and the Road to Pearl Harbor (1994)
- Kaufman, Robert Gordon. Arms Control during the Prenuclear Era: The United States and Naval Limitation between the Two World Wars. Columbia U. Press, 1990. 289 pp.
- Carolyn J. Kitching; Britain and the Problem of International Disarmament, 1919-1934 Routledge, 1999 online