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Japanese World War II strategy was driven by two factors: the desire to expand their territories on the mainland of Asia (China and Manchuria), and the need to secure the supply of raw resources they didn't have themselves, particularly oil. Since their quest after the former (conquest of Chinese provinces) endangered the latter (an oil boycott by the USA and its allies), the Japanese government saw no other option than to conquer the oil sources in South-East Asia. Since these were controlled by American allies, war with the USA was seen as inevitable; thus, Japanese leaders decided it would be best to deal a severe blow to the U.S. first. This was executed in the Pearl Harbor strike, crippling the American battle fleet. Japan hoped it would take America so long to rebuild, by the time she was able to return in force in the Pacific, she would consider the new balance of power a "fait accompli", and negotiate a peace. However, the attack on Pearl Harbor failed to destroy the crucial targets (aircraft carriers and, most crucially for Japan's ability to hold island bases, submarines) and ignored others (oil tank farms, power station), thus the U.S. Navy was not weakened enough to force withdrawal. The psychological effect also caused the U.S. population and armed forces to fully mobilize for war. South-East Asia was quickly conquered (Philippines, Indochina, Malaysia and the Dutch East Indies). After Japan's vital aircraft carrier force was destroyed in the Battle of Midway, the Japanese had to revert to a stiff defense they kept up for the remainder of the war.

Australia's historical ties with Britain meant that with the commencement of World War II her armies were sent overseas to contribute to battles in Europe. Fear from the north was so understated that at the outbreak of open warfare with Japan, Australia itself was extremely vulnerable to invasion (possible invasion plans were considered by the Japanese high command, though there was strong opposition). Australia's policy became based entirely on domestic defense following the attacks on Pearl Harbor and British assets in the South Pacific. Defying strong British opposition, Australian Prime Minister John Curtin recalled most troops from the European conflict for the defense of the nation. Australia's defensive doctrine saw a fierce campaign fought along the Kokoda track in New Guinea. This campaign sought to further stretch Japanese supply lines, preventing the invasion of the Australian mainland until the arrival of fresh American troops and the return of seasoned Australian soldiers from Europe. This can be seen as a variant of the war of attrition strategy, where the defenderout of necessityhad to hold the aggressor at a semi-static defensive line, rather than falling back in the face of superior numbers. This method is in stark contrast to the Russian scorched earth policy against Napoleon in 1812, where the defenders yielded home territory in favour of avoiding open battle. In both cases the lack of supplies was successful in blunting the assaults, following exhaustive defensive efforts.