Throughout World War II, the United States was able to supply Russia with food and many crucial war materials, such as aluminum, via Russia's Pacific port, Vladivostok. Japan steadfastedly refused to attack or prevent Russian shipping from reaching this port with a few isolated exceptions, such as the sinking of the Belorussia in 1944. As can be seen by the map below the route to Vladivostok goes right by Japan:

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Japan had signed a neutrality pact with the Soviet Union in April of 1941, shortly before the German attack on that country. However, my understanding is the pact only guaranteed the land borders and said nothing about shipping. Also, nothing stopped Japan from disavowing the pact, just as Russia later did in 1945.

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    I doubt Stalin would have recognized that fine distinction between Land and naval borders. Japan was already overreaching her limits by fighting war in East, West and South. They did not need to fight it in North as well.
    – NSNoob
    May 11, 2016 at 13:34
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    Had German offensive decisively broken Soviets however, I do not doubt Japanese would have been very happy to push inside Soviet Union and break the pact. A Japanese Army was stationed in Korea. But since Germans never managed to do that, Japan carried on with more immediate objectives.
    – NSNoob
    May 11, 2016 at 13:36
  • The answers confirm the intuitive response: they didn't need to, because the Soviets were attacking the Germans and not them. But it raises the question, did the Germans ask them to, and what was Japan's response?
    – Ne Mo
    Nov 23, 2019 at 13:25

4 Answers 4


In addition to the points already raised by @TomAu and @DevSolar...

The Pacific lend-lease route skirted the problem by officially being handled by the Soviets. Supervision and routing was handled by the Soviets. Cargo was loaded into Soviet flagged ships, many US ships were handed over to the Soviets. Since ships on the route might be inspected by the Japanese they did not include war materials. The Pacific route handled things like food, trucks, and locomotives which were allowed. War material instead went via the Arctic Convoys and the Persian Corridor.

Attacking the US/Soviet lend lease would have meant sinking Soviet ships killing Soviet sailors and loss of goods purchased by the Soviets. Since Japan was not at war with the Soviets, and was anxious to not be at war with them, there was little justification to attack their ships.

There's an insinuation in the question that Japan could simply attack the Soviets, and there was nothing the Soviets could do about it. The Japanese had already learned this was not so.

Since 1931 the Japanese had been testing the Soviets in a series of escalating border skirmishes. In the summer of 1939 this escalated to a major battle, the largely forgotten Battles of Khalkhin Gol. Then Corps commander Georgy Zhukov was called in to deal with the Japanese probing attacks once and for all and show what the Soviet army was capable of when it got its act together. Zhukov used massed armor to achieve a double envelopment to decisively end the battle.

After this humiliating defeat, the Japanese attitude towards expansion switched from looking north at Siberia (Hokushin-ron) to looking south at southeast Asia and Pacific islands (Nanshin-ron). The Japanese had already suffered a defeat the hands of the USSR, and now had no motive to pick a second fight by interfering with their shipping.

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    Throughout the war, the Red Army kept significant forces facing Japan, including two tank divisions and one motorized rifle divisions (the only such formations to last past early 1942). Aug 30, 2018 at 17:30
  • Note that Japan had already tried to invade Siberia twice in recent memory (Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars), and had won only before Russia had time to mount a real response. As you point out, this third time they tried the same thing, Russia responded much faster to the same result.
    – fectin
    Jan 2, 2020 at 21:12

Why should they?

Destroying those supplies would require the commitment of forces Japan did not have to spare, with little to show for it.

If a country Japan was at war with -- the USA -- insists on shipping war supplies to a country Japan was not at war with, why should Japan mind?

Whether those supplies reached Russia or not did not make a difference for Japan. (Except perhaps merchant tonnage sunk, but the US was more than capable of replacing such losses.) They could instead try to sink supply ships supplying US troops, which would be much more useful to Japan's war effort.

  • The Soviet Pacific Fleet at this time was rather unimpressive, and the Japanese had plenty of naval forces in the area to defeat it soundly, even after the disastrous defeats of 1944. Aug 30, 2018 at 17:29
  • @DavidThornley: Japans declared and primary enemy was the USA, and they did not have the "plenty" of naval forces to pick a fight with the Soviets in addition to the (losing!) war they already had on their hands. And as I said, there was nothing to gain there. The US shipped war material out of the theater the Japanese were trying to contest. Fine, let them, that's material they are not using to kick Japanese forces any harder than they already did.
    – DevSolar
    Aug 30, 2018 at 17:33
  • I rechecked. The Soviets had a lot of submarines, which aren't real useful for escorting shipping, and about a dozen destroyers in the Pacific for the war. For most of the war, that would not have been a serious problem for the Japanese. In both 1943 and 1944, they added a Kirov-class cruiser, fast and fairly well-armed. I don't know when they became operational, and they did nothing during the war. Therefore, for about the first two years of the war, Japan would have had no problems. After Leyte Gulf, they would have had serious problems. Sep 1, 2018 at 17:05
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    @DavidThornley: You are apparently still completely missing the gist of my answer. Japan was not at war with Russia. So they had nothing to gain from attacking Russia-bound shipping, which happened outside the theater in which they were actively fighting.
    – DevSolar
    Sep 1, 2018 at 17:14

Japan had a five year non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union (which the Soviets broke in 1945 after four years). Attacking Russian shipping would have been an act of war, and Japan didn't really want or need a "third" enemy. Japan feared that the Americans would use Soviet territory to launch air strikes or "stage" an invasion if it provoked Russia sufficiently. In this instance, therefore, Japan was content to "let sleeping dogs lie." The country did have the consolation that the materials would not be used against her (at least until the 1945 "double cross.")

Yes, Japan was allied with Germany, but only against England and the U.S., the two maritime powers that Japan truly feared (and were capable of invading Japan). The book "Marching Orders" and other sources show that Japan urged Germany to make peace with the Soviet Union so they could concentrate "two on two."


I think I found the answer. The Second World War was a war for hegenon between Eurasian powers such as Great Britain, Germany and Japan. And the United States and their political golem the Soviet Union. This war took the form of Hegelian dialectics. Such a process required the installation in all countries of a very influential agency, often acting as the ruling elite. These elites pursued policies that conflicted with the interests of the countries they managed. A good example is Adolf Hitler or Hideki Togo. The result of World War 2 was the acquisition of world hegemony. This required the destruction of Eurasia.

  • Evidence for these assertions would be nice. Nov 23, 2019 at 4:59

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