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To a small extent, some Vichy French, Indian National Army, and Burmese National Army forces were active in the area of the Pacific War.

In August 1940, Chinese communists launched an offensive in Central China; in retaliation, Japan instituted the "Three Alls Policy" ("Kill all, Burn all, Loot all") in occupied areas to reduce human and material resources for the communists. Although Japan had occupied much of northern, central, and coastal China, the Nationalist Government had retreated to the interior with a provisional capital set up at Chungking while the Chinese communists remained in control of base areas in Shaanxi.

In addition, Japanese control of northern and central China was somewhat tenuous, in that Japan was usually able to control railroads and the major cities ("points and lines"), but did not have a major military or administrative presence in the vast Chinese countryside.

The major Allied participants were the United States, the Republic of China, the United Kingdom (including the armed forces of British India, the Fiji Islands, Samoa, etc.), Australia, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, the Netherlands (as the possessor of the Dutch East Indies and the western part of New Guinea), New Zealand, and Canada, all of whom were members of the Pacific War Council.

Mexico, Free France and many other countries also took part, especially forces from other British colonies.

Japanese forces broke their agreement with the Vichy administration and fighting broke out, ending in a Japanese victory.

On 27 September Japan signed a military alliance with Germany and Italy, becoming one of the three Axis Powers.

In practice, there was little coordination between Japan and Germany until 1944, by which time the U. was deciphering their secret diplomatic correspondence. The war entered a new phase with the unprecedented defeat of the Japanese at Battle of Suixian–Zaoyang and 1st Battle of Changsha.

After these victories, Chinese nationalist forces launched a large-scale counter-offensive in early 1940; however, due to its low military-industrial capacity, it was repulsed by Japanese army in late March 1940.

In Allied countries during the war, "The Pacific War" was not usually distinguished from World War II in general, or was known simply as the War against Japan.

In the United States, the term Pacific Theater was widely used, although this was a misnomer in relation to the British campaign in Burma, the war in China and other activities within the Southeast Asian Theater.

Japan used the name Greater East Asia War , as chosen by a cabinet decision on 10 December 1941, to refer to both the war with the Western Allies and the ongoing war in China.

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