Japan is rethinking how to use its tanks to prepare for a potential clash with China

Japan Self-Defense Force tanks
Japanese tanks during a live-fire exercise at the foot of Mount Fuji, August 22, 2019.

  • Japan built a large and capable armored force to counter the Soviets during the Cold War.
  • But a rising China poses a new challenge, and Japan is changing how it designs and uses its armor.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Despite a few successes early in World War II, Japanese armor was hopelessly outclassed by Allied tanks as soon as they arrived in large numbers.

Those experiences and the threat of a Soviet invasion led the Japanese to put much more effort into post-war tank designs. By the 1990s, Japan had a large and capable armored force.

But the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) has had to recalibrate in recent decades.

The threat from a rising China has forced Japan’s Ground Self Defense Force (GSDF) to shift from an armor- and artillery-intensive force based in its north – where it would’ve responded to a Soviet invasion – to a more mobile one able to reach southwestern Japan at a moment’s notice.

To do this, the JSDF is making a number of changes, including investing heavily in transportation capability, new armored vehicle designs, and reforming the GSDF’s tank arm.

Fending off the Soviets

Japan Japanese Type 61 tank
Type 61 main battle tanks during an exercise at Camp Fuji in Japan, November 18, 1985.

Japan’s tank force was actually quite modern and innovative during its development between the world wars. But while Germany and the Allies had the industrial capacity to update or create new tanks during World War II, Japan’s industry was comparatively limited.

Moreover, since Japanese plans in that war involved pushing south into areas where massive tank battles were unlikely, most funding and resources went to its navy and air services.

After the war, Japan – now with access to Western technology and designs and convinced of the importance of tanks – focused much more on developing a capable armored force to fend off the Soviets.

For most of the Cold War, Japan’s tank force was made up of the Type 61 and Type 74 main battle tanks, armed with 90 mm and 105 mm guns, respectively. They were both capable designs for their time and were fielded in large numbers.

In 1990, the GSDF introduced the Type 90. At 50 tons and with a 120 mm gun, it is by all accounts a first-rate tank. Equipped with modular composite armor, a laser rangefinder, fire-control computer, thermal and night vision, and an autoloader, it is similar to Germany’s Leopard 2A4.

The Japanese believed Hokkaido, the northernmost of the home islands and the closest to Soviet territory, would be the frontline of any invasion, and most of Japan’s tanks were stationed there.

By 1976, the GSDF had some 1,200 tanks and about 1,000 artillery pieces, mostly in Hokkaido, where much of that armored force is still stationed.

Lighter and more mobile

Japan Self-Defense Force Type 74 tank
Type 74 main battle tanks during a live-fire exercise at the foot of Mount Fuji, August 24, 2017.

The threat of Russian invasion was virtually nonexistent after the Cold War, and the JSDF decided to cut down on the overall number of tanks, which fell from about 900 in service in 1995 to about 570 now.

The JSDF plans to reduce the total to 300 in the coming years.

The GSDF continued acquiring Type 90s to replace the older Type 61 and Type 74s, and Japan has continued developing new armored vehicles, fielding the Type 10 main battle tank and the Type 16 Mobile Combat Vehicle in the last decade.

Introduced in 2012, the Type 10 is meant to replace the Type 74 and compliment the Type 90.

At 48 tons fully loaded, the Type 10 is lighter and more maneuverable than the Type 90. Whereas the Type 90’s size limits it to operating in Hokkaido and around Mt. Fuji, the Type 10 can operate anywhere Japanese law allows.

Japan Self-Defense Force tank armored vehicle
A Japanese Type 10 tank, top left, a Type 90 tank, top right, and Type 16 Maneuver Combat Vehicle, bottom, during an exercise, January 12, 2020.

The Type 10 has modular ceramic composite armor with nano-crystal steel. The modules can be added or removed depending on mission or damage. It also has a 120 mm gun and an auto loader.

The electronics suite is perhaps the Type 10’s most impressive feature, with an advanced command-and-control system that allows it to communicate and share information with nearby JGSDF tanks and units.

The Type 16 was introduced a few years after the Type 10. Although it is wheeled, it has a tank turret and functions as a light tank, conducting close combat, counterattacks, and direct-fire infantry support.

Armed with a 105 mm rifled gun and weighing just 26 tons, the Type 16 can operate safely on Japan’s entire road network and be carried in Air Self Defense Force aircraft.

A new southern threat

Japan Self-Defense Force Type 16 Maneuver Combat Vehicle
A Type 16 during a live-fire exercise in Japan, May 23, 2020.

Adopting lighter tanks may seem counterintuitive, but it actually fits perfectly within the force the JSDF is building – one capable of dealing with the new threat posed to Japan’s southwest by China.

“As we got farther from the Cold War and different threats arose, Japan started to shift overall defense thinking about where the real threat is emanating from,” said Jeffrey Hornung, an expert on Japanese security and foreign policies at the RAND Corporation.

“It starts to crystallize, really in the last decade, decade and a half, [to] where it’s the China threat,” Hornung told Insider.

That threat is primarily in the air and at sea, and centers on the Senkaku Islands, which Japan administers but China claims, calling them the Diaoyu Islands.

Japanese leaders believe that since China is not trying to export global revolution like the Soviet Union and is focused on just the Senkakus, a large-scale ground invasion of its home islands is unlikely.

“They don’t anticipate China doing any sort of amphibious invasion of Japanese territory, and so in that environment they don’t see a need for the heavy artillery and tanks.” Hornung said.

“Instead, they see that you have all these islands in the southwest island chain that if the GSDF are going to be involved in, they have to rapidly get there, and they have to have the capability to fight in that environment,” Hornung added.

A need for rapid deployment

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Japanese troops exit an armored vehicle during an exercise, August 30, 2003.

Tanks would still be essential if China were to attack Japan’s larger offshore islands, where thousands of people live. As a result, the GSDF is developing rapid-deployment divisions and brigades, including a new unit trained specifically in amphibious warfare.

It is also acquiring more transportable armored vehicles and artillery systems, emphasizing anti-ship and anti-air capability, and buying V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to help transport its soldiers.

But the GSDF still faces problems – namely its lack of sealift capacity.

Despite the main threat seen as facing Japan’s southwest islands, half of the GSDFs rapidly deployable basic operational units are still based in Hokkaido.

While the Type 16 can be deployed by air, the Type 90 and Type 10 would have to be transported by sea. The majority of its soldiers and hardware would also likely need to be deployed by ship, especially if they are headed to Japan’s outer islands.

The only vessels capable of such tasks that Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force has are its three Ōsumi-class tank landing ships. Japan plans to acquire three new transport vessels by 2024, but these are considerably smaller, and the total number of capable vessels would remain dangerously low.

“They developed these [rapid deployment] capabilities without more coordination on the airlift and sealift from the other services that’s required, and that’s where there’s a problem,” Hornung said.

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Inside the largest fish market in the world, where a single tuna can sell for up to $3 million

  • The Toyosu Market in Tokyo is the largest fish market in the world, and is home to world-famous tuna auctions.
  • Expert bidders flock to the market each morning for a chance to buy top-tier tuna, sometimes paying as much as $3 million.
  • We followed a veteran tuna bidder, who explained the ins and outs of tuna auctions and his industry’s role in marine sustainability.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
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Private equity firm Bain Capital could take Japanese conglomerate Toshiba private, report says

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Toshiba Corp is seen as Window cleaners work on the company's headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
The logo of Toshiba Corp is seen as Window cleaners work on the company’s headquarters in Tokyo

US private equity firm Bain Capital could take the Japanese conglomerate Toshiba private, sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

Bain Capital has started talks with Japanese banks that could help finance the deal, according to Reuters. The US financial firm may collaborate with peers for a co-investment into the struggling Japanese company.

Toshiba produces a wide range of products such as elevators, nuclear technology, semiconductors, home electronics, batteries, medical equipment and IT products. Until it sold off its majority stakes in its flash memory unit in 2017, it was one of the major players in the chip industry.

Bain Capital was involved in the sell-off of Toshiba’s flash memory unit, now known as Kioxia Holdings. Toshiba still has 40% stakes in its former division.

The company has however faced issues since then, plagued by accounting scandals and running up losses in its US nuclear business. Yet it remains a major producer of Japanese military equipment and plays a role in the country’s energy supply as a leader in nuclear power.

Toshiba’s stock price reached two-year lows in the first quarter, but has since recovered, albeit shakily. On Wednesday, stock fell by 3.3% and closed at 4,205.00 yen ($38.92).

Earlier this month, private equity and advisory firm CVC Capital Partners had made a $20 billion offer to take the firm private, which sparked controversy amongst Toshiba executives. Toshiba’s chief executive Nobuaki Kurumatani stepped down shortly afterwards and has been replaced with the former chairman of the company, Satoshi Tsunakawa.

After the tumultuous reaction, CVC Capital distanced itself from the plans on Tuesday, saying in a letter, it would “step aside” for now, Reuters said.

Various other firms have also been said to be thinking about bidding on a Toshiba takeover, including Japanese banks and North American financial firms.

If the deal goes through, Toshiba would be one of the few companies going against the current wave of companies going public.

Regulatory changes in the US have meant direct listings are more accessible and SPACs have become a thriving market. This has been fueled by an increase in retail investing and companies’ desire to become publicly traded as soon as possible, based on the idea that this will drive profitability. From the start of the year to mid-March, more special purpose acquisition companies had listed than in the whole of 2020, but not all of them have met with red-hot success.

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When it comes to China, the US need to figure out which fights are principled, and which fights are petty

Biden and Xi Jinping
Then Vice President Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a California meeting aimed at strengthening Chinese investment in the state. China has now the lead in 5G infrastructure, but experts say don’t count Silicon Valley out yet.

  • John Kerry was in China this week discussing climate change and some people are upset about it.
  • They think cooperation on that issue could stop the US from being aggressive with Beijing about a host of other issues.
  • They’re delusional.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden’s special envoy on climate, John Kerry, went to Shanghai this week to discuss how best the two largest economies in the world can address the threat of climate change. Despite the meeting being pretty standard stuff, it still has some US-China watchers completely losing their minds.

This freak out crew would prefer to have cordial relations between the two countries end tomorrow and instead have the US put maximum pressure on the Chinese Communist Party. They would prefer a world completely split in two, divided by a “digital iron curtain” with the US and fellow democracies on one side, and China, Russia, and their allies on the other. Economic ties would be cut, the flow of people would slow to a trickle, and the prospect of war would heighten across the world.

To them, Kerry and his message of cooperation on climate change could derail that future. That’s a false choice, but despite it’s absurdity the idea has become pervasive. Over at the Brookings Institution they decided that Kerry could go rogue, becoming a one-man wrecking ball for the entire government’s more muscular China policy. This is ridiculous on its face. Ultimately it is President Biden who will decide the direction of our China policy – and, as one former Obama administration Asia hand told me dismissing this theory, “John Kerry is no panda hugger.”

This is a delicate moment. The boundaries of the US-China relationship are being redrawn. We are watching trust rapidly dissipate between world powers in real time, and we shouldn’t waste what little trust we have now on empty antagonism. There will likely come a time when we wish we had that trust back.

A bomb and the time bomb

In the 1950s and 1960s the end of human civilization was staring its destruction in the face in the form of the nuclear bomb. The bomb was getting bigger and deadlier; spreading to more countries; and had already laid waste to cities and contaminated populations.

And so in 1963 during some of the most frigid times of the Cold War between the United States and USSR, the key nuclear powers of the time (which also included the United Kingdom), signed the Limited Testing Ban Treaty. The treaty regulated how and where countries could test their bombs, and it set up an emergency line of communication between powers to avert disaster – “the hotline.”

This all amounted to one critical thread of cooperation between the US and USSR during an otherwise entirely uncooperative period. The Cold War went on, but the prospect of nuclear winter shrank.

Today the threat facing human civilization is climate change, and the two countries that most need to work together to solve it – the US and China – are on the verge of another conflict that will force the planet to choose sides. In both countries there are people who are calling for a cessation of cooperative interactions. To them, every cooperative meeting is a Trojan Horse, during which one side will magically convince the other to forget every other issue pulling them apart.

But what we learned from the Cold War is that the US and an adversarial superpower are perfectly capable of sustaining fierce competition, while also cooperating enough to keep the world from destroying itself. When it comes to the US and China today, not only are we not in as dark a place as we were with the USSR in 1963, but we also have far more economic and business ties to break before we get there.

Until we’re serious about breaking those ties entirely (we’re not yet), we shouldn’t act like we are. That’s called posturing, and the United States ought to be above that.

That doesn’t mean we aren’t aggressive regarding issues that concern us – like Xinjiang, Hong Kong, North Korea, and Taiwan. It does not mean we aren’t aggressive when China bullies our allies, like Australia, or engages in cyber hacking. It does not shrink our commitment to democracy. But it does mean finding ways to cooperate where we can and keeping lines of communication open.

I mean my God, even in 1963 they had the hotline.

Cooperation

Here’s how I know we’re not serious about cutting commercial and social ties with China just yet. Right now the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is working on a sweeping bipartisan bill to address China’s rising power. In it there’s hundreds of million of dollars for defense and programs to country China’s telecommunications rise. But for companies that want to move their operations and supply lines out of China there’s just $15 million. The US government loses $15 million in the couch cushions. That is not serious money.

But what people who do business in China will tell you is that getting public data, or having the mobility and access to interview customers to do business there, is getting harder. On March 19, Anne Stevenson-Yang, founder of China-focused investment firm J Capital Research Ltd testified before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission on Capitol Hill.

She told attendees that more and more of China is state run – that it’s not opening it’s economy anymore, that it’s closing it. Public economic data that used to be easy to get started evaporating back in 2015, shortly after Chinese President Xi Jinping took power. This back pedaling does not just make Chinese society more brittle, she argued, but it also creates incentives in the Chinese economy that put investors and multinational corporations at risk. The solution, in some of those instances, is more cooperation – not less.

“The practical remedy for faked data, for example, on a corporate, industrial, and macroeconomic level, is to grant American researchers unfettered access to conduct surveys, interview individuals, and review financial records of all sorts in a legal proceeding, including tax records, audit papers, invoices, and communications,” she said. “A key impediment to such data collection is China’s law forbidding independent surveys. Survey teams need to be able to access respondents within a framework of privacy law but not one of data supervision.”

Achieving that requires cooperation, but that doesn’t mean Stevenson-Yang isn’t realistic about where it is not possible. For example, she recommends treating Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese network gear as spyware and supports technology export restrictions.

If China closes and gradually makes itself a terrible place to do business, that is on China. It is on the US government to ensure that our multinational corporations are ethical, transparent, and consider our domestic interests at the center of their business. In the meantime the most productive thing to do is engage with China to protect investors and US businesses as best we can.

Besides, this is America and we do capitalism. If you want to do business in China and don’t mind the uncertainty of having your product randomly barred from military complexes and personnel; or you want to deal with your company being harassed and boycotted for not endorsing cotton from Xinjiang or whatever, knock yourself out.

Separating the principled from the petty

In this fragile moment, there is a danger of confusing the principled with the petty. When that happens, any slight can lead to a stand off.

There are petty new features of this more antagonistic relationship we all just have to get used to rolling off our backs. For example, China forced the world to get used to its hyper-aggressive “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy, and now it has to get used to a US strategy that it dislikes – US led multilateralism. To China, when we rally our allies to make joint statements about things like human rights abuses in Xinjiang, that’s bullying.

Too bad. When the US is run correctly, that’s how we do things. Beijing will have to get over it.

This is to make space for the issues that Beijing and Washington cannot get over, most of which was discussed between President Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday. Suga will be the first foreign leader to visit the White House since Biden took office. It is a sign of the gravity of the matters they have to discuss – like North Korea, Taiwan and a maintaining “free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Perhaps it’s a coincidence that Kerry’s and Suga’s meetings fall at the same time, perhaps it’s not. Both are meant to address exigent situations that demand cooperation at highest levels of government and both must be had. Until the day comes when we are serious about ending the US-China relationship – and that day very well may come – we should continue to seek cooperation where it benefits the people and institutions of the United States of America. Anything else is an exercise in fantasy, or worse – just posturing.

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‘Bring it up now!’ Biden demands action in the Senate on guns during wide-ranging press conference with the prime minister of Japan

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President Joe Biden, accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, speaks at a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Washington.

  • President Biden called on the Senate to address gun control “now” at a Friday press conference.
  • Following another mass shooting Thursday, Biden called the uptick in gun deaths a “national embarrassment.”
  • The president reaffirmed his support for universal background checks and a ban on assault rifles.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden put public pressure on Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at a Friday press conference, demanding the Senate consider House-passed gun control bills immediately, in response to a recent uptick in mass shootings.

Biden was joined by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga for a wide-ranging news conference following the leaders’ in-person summit which was focused on American-Japanese cooperation in countering China

During the event, Biden and Suga fielded questions about the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, the South China Sea, and Iran. But it was a question about Biden’s legislative progress, or lack thereof, on gun control and police reform that sparked the president’s most impassioned response.

“This has to end,” Biden said. “It’s a national embarrassment…every single day there’s a mass shooting in the United States if you count all those who are killed out on the streets of our cities and our rural areas.”

The president reaffirmed his support for universal background checks and bans on assault weapons. Biden also said upon taking office, he immediately asked the attorney general to investigate the possible executive actions available to him relating to gun control.

But Biden bucked the suggestion he wasn’t prioritizing the issue, noting he doesn’t set the Senate agenda and instead urged Congressional leadership to “step up and act.”

He specifically asked Senate leadership to bring up a House-passed gun control bill as soon as possible.

Last month, the House passed HR 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 in a 227-203 vote. The bill would extend background check requirements on almost all gun transfers, including between private sellers. It would also require that gun sales between private parties be handled by a licensed firearms dealer, who would take control of the weapon while the background check was in progress.

Around the same time, the House also passed HR 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, which would increase the amount of time to a minimum of 10 business days that an unlicensed person must wait to receive a completed background check prior to transfer.

But Schumer, who is in charge of setting the Senate agenda as majority leader, has been waiting to bring gun control legislation to the floor, in part, because Democrats and Republicans in the chamber are trying to find a bipartisan compromise on the issue, according to PBS correspondent Lisa Desjardins.

The calls for increased gun control come on the heels of yet another mass shooting Thursday at a FedEx in Indianapolis that left eight dead.

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Japan scrapped a cartoon mascot meant to promote its plan to dump Fukushima nuclear wastewater into the sea

Mr. Tritium
The cartoon mascot used to promote the release of treated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear reactor.

  • Japan has pulled a mascot representing a cartoon tritium atom happily floating around in wastewater.
  • People said the cuteness of the mascot undermined a serious issue, local media reported.
  • Japan announced plans this week to release wastewater from the Fukushima power plant into the sea.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Japan has abruptly scrapped the use of a colorful cartoon mascot aimed at promoting the release of wastewater from nuclear sites, after widespread criticism.

Locals said that the cuteness of the mascot, nicknamed “Tritium-kun” – or “Little Mr. Tritium” – online, diminished the seriousness of the issue, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

The green, round-faced mascot was released as part of a Japanese government campaign aimed at promoting and explaining its decision to gradually release more than 1 million tons of treated wastewater used to cool the Fukushima nuclear reactor into the ocean.

The Reconstruction Agency, a coordinating body established by the Japanese government after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster, published promotional videos and leaflets involving the mascot on Tuesday.

The agency removed the promotional materials on Wednesday, saying in a statement: “We have received various voices and impressions from people, and we will revise the tritium design based on them. For this reason, we will temporarily suspend the publication of the leaflets and videos.”

This video from Fukushima News shows clips of the now-removed promotional footage, which showed the mascot floating in a pool of water:

A representative for the Reconstruction Agency said the reason for expressing tritium as a character is that “it means friendliness. We aimed for an intermediate feeling that is neither ‘good’ or ‘evil’,” the Tokyo Shimbun reported.

China, South Korea, and Russia have criticized Japan’s plan to release the treated wastewater into the ocean, saying the water still contains one radioactive element, an isotope of hydrogen called tritium. Three independent UN human-rights experts also called Japan’s plan “very concerning.”

Japan has argued that the wastewater will be diluted far beyond recommended healthy levels for drinking water. The practice is commonly used by power plants around the world, it said.

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Japan approves plan to dump 1 million tonnes of waste water from Fukushima nuclear disaster into the sea, arguing that it has been treated and isn’t harmful

Fukushima thumb
An annotated aerial view of the TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in February 2021.

  • Japan approved a plan to put wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea.
  • The water has been treated, and now experts say it contains minimal radioactive material.
  • The release, set for 2023, is the latest move to deal with the aftermath of the 2011 accident there.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Wastewater used to cool the Fukushima nuclear reactor is due to be released into the ocean after treatment, Japan said on Tuesday.

It is part of the nation’s plan to decommission the power station that was destroyed in the 2011 tsunami in one of the worst nuclear disasters in history.

Japan had previously warned that it was running out of space to contain the more than 1 million tonnes of treated contaminated water in storage tanks on site.

Releasing the water in the ocean is an “unavoidable task,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said. The water will start to be released in two years, according to the plan.

The will first water be filtered to remove most nuclear contaminants. However, one nuclear product cannot be removed from the wastewater: tritium, a form of hydrogen.

Releasing the treated wastewater in the ocean would dilute this particle well below standards set by the World Health Organisation, government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said.

According to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, tritium is fairly harmless in small concentrations, but as the concentration of the particle increases, so does the risk of cancer.

“The Japanese Government’s decision is in line with practice globally, even though the large amount of water at the Fukushima plant makes it a unique and complex case,” International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) said in a statement on Tuesday.

The IAEA, an independent international organisation which provides technical support for nuclear safety and has been advising the Japanese government, said that controlled water release is “routinely used by operating nuclear power plants in the world.”

The news was admonished by China and South Korea. In a statement issued Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign ministry called the decision “unilateral” and “highly irresponsible,” claiming that it will “severely affect human health.”

fukushima map
An annotated map shows the location of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

South Korea has also condemned the decision, calling it “outright unacceptable” in a press briefing on Tuesday, the Korea Herald reported.

Fisheries have also called out the decision, saying that it might further damage the image of the quality of fish caught in the Fukushima area. Local fisheries have just returned to their functions after a decade of only catching fish for testing purposes, the Association Press reported.

The US seemed to welcome the move. In a statement, the US department of State said that Japan “appears to have adopted an approach in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards.”

“We thank Japan for its transparent efforts in its decision,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a tweet.

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5 more countries that are impossible to conquer

US Army Vietnam War
A US infantry patrol moves up to assault a Viet Cong position during Operation Hawthorne, in Dak To in South Vietnam.

  • Conquering a country means not only defeating its military but its population as well.
  • Throughout history, some peoples have been particularly successful at resisting invaders.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The true conquest of a country is more than just invading its land borders. To truly conquer a country, an invader has to subdue its people and end its will to fight.

There are many countries in the world with a lot of experience in this area, and there are many more countries who were on the receiving end of their subjugation.

At the end of World War II, the age of colonialism was officially ended for most of these conquerors and what grew from that end was a rebirth of those people and their culture, which just went to show that their people were never really subdued in the first place.

And then there were some countries that either never stopped fighting in the first place or have been constantly fighting for their right to exist since they won their independence. Some of them overcame great odds and earned the respect of their neighbors and former enemies rather than allow themselves to be subject to someone just because they didn’t have the latest and greatest in military technologies.

In the last installment, we looked at countries whose people, geography, sheer size, populations, and culture would never allow an invader to conquer them. This time, we look at smaller countries who took on great powers as the underdog and came out on top.

1. Vietnam

vietnam war

The Vietnam War wasn’t some historical undercard match. It was actually a heavyweight championship fight – the United States just didn’t realize it at the time.

The history of Vietnam’s formidable people and defenses date well before the Vietnam War and even before World War II. Vietnam has historically been thought of as one of the most militaristic countries in the region, and for good reason. Vietnam has been kicking invaders out since the 13th century when Mongol hordes tried to move in from China.

While it wasn’t Genghis Khan at the head of the invading army, it wasn’t too far removed the then-dead leader’s time. Kubali Khan’s Yuan Dynasty tried three times to subdue the Vietnamese. In the last invasion, Khan sent 400 ships and 300,000 men to Vietnam, only to see every ship sunk and the army harassed by the Vietnamese all the way back to China.

Vietnam maintained its independence from China for 900 years after that. In more modern times, Vietnam was first invaded by the French in force in 1858 and they couldn’t subdue the whole of the country until 1887, 29 years after it first started.

It cost thousands of French lives and the French even had to bring in Philippine troops to help. Even then, they won only because of a critical error on the part of Vietnamese emperor Tu Duc, who terribly misjudged how much his people actually cared for his regime.

The Japanese invasion during WWII awakened the Vietnamese resolve toward independence and they immediately started killing Japanese invaders – and not out of love for the French. They famously gave France the boot, invaded Laos to extend their territory, and then invaded South Vietnam. That’s where the Americans come in.

The American-Vietnam War didn’t go so well for either side, but now-Communist Vietnam’s dense jungle and support from China and the Soviet Union gave the North Vietnamese the military power to match their will to keep fighting, a will which seemed never-ending, no matter which side you’re on. North Vietnam was able to wait out the US and reunite Vietnam, an underdog story that no one believed possible.

Vietnam’s resistance to outsiders doesn’t end there. After Vietnam invaded China-backed Cambodia (and won, by the way), Communist China’s seemingly unstoppable People’s Liberation Army with its seemingly unlimited manpower invaded Vietnam in 1979.

For three weeks, the war ground Vietnamese border villages in a bloody stalemate until the Chinese retreated back across the border, taking an unexpectedly high death toll.

2. Finland

Soviet Union Russia Finland winter war snow grave frozen
Members of a Finnish ski patrol examining the tomb of two Russian officers on the Salla front in Finland on February 10, 1940.

Though not much about early Finnish history is known, there are a few Viking sagas that mention areas of Finland and the people who inhabit those areas. Those sagas usually involve Vikings getting murdered or falling in battle. The same goes for Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, and virtually anyone else who had their eyes set on Finland.

In the intervening years, Finns allowed themselves to be dominated by Sweden and Russia, but after receiving their autonomy in 1917, Finland wasn’t about to give it up. They eventually became a republic and were happy with that situation until around World War II began.

That’s when the Soviet Union invaded.

The invasion of Finland didn’t go well for the USSR. It lasted all of 105 days and the “Winter War,” as it came to be called, was the site of some of the most brutal fighting the world has ever seen to this day.

Finns were ruthless and relentless in defending their territory. For example, the Raatteentie Incident involved a 300-Finn ambush of a 25,000-strong Soviet force – and the Finns destroyed the Russians almost to the last man. The Finnish sniper Simo Hayha killed 505 Russians and never lost a moment’s sleep.

When the retreating Finns destroyed anything that might be of use to an invader, it forced Soviet troops to march over frozen lakes. Lakes that were mined by the Finns and subsequently exploded, downing and freezing thousands of Red Army invaders.

The Winter War is also where Finnish civilians perfected and mass-produced the Molotov Cocktail.

From the British War Office:

“The Finns’ policy was to allow the Russian tanks to penetrate their defenses, even inducing them to do so by ‘canalising’ them through gaps and concentrating their small arms fire on the infantry following them. The tanks that penetrated were taken on by gun fire in the open and by small parties of men armed with explosive charges and petrol bombs in the forests and villages.”

This was the level of resistance from a country of just 3.5 million people. Finns showed up in whatever they were wearing, with whatever weapons they had, men and women alike.

In short, Finns are happy to kill any invader and will do it listening to heavy metal music while shouting the battle cry of, “fire at their balls!”

3. Israel

Israeli air force fighter plane independence
An Israeli air force Avia S-199 in June 1948.

If part of what makes the United States an unconquerable country is every citizen being able to take up arms against an invader, just imagine how effective that makeshift militia force would be if every single citizen was also a trained soldier. That’s Israel, with 1.5 million highly trained reserve troops.

Israel has had mandatory military service for all its citizens – men and women – since 1949 and for a good reason. Israel is in a tough neighborhood and most of their neighbors don’t want Israel to exist.

This means the Jewish state is constantly fighting for survival in some way, shape, or form, and they’re incredibly good at it. In almost 70 years of history, Israel earned a perfect war record. Not bad for any country, let alone one that takes heat for literally anything it does.

Not only will Israel wipe the floor with its enemies; it doesn’t pull punches. That’s why wars against Israel don’t last long, with most lasting less than a year and the shortest lasting just six days. As far as invading Israel goes, the last time an invading Army was in Israel proper, it was during the 1948-49 War of Independence. Since then, the farthest any invader got inside Israel was into areas seized by the Israelis during a previous war.

In fact, when an Arab coalition surprised Israel during Yom Kippur in 1973, the Israelis nearly took Cairo and Damascus in just a couple of weeks.

More than just securing their land borders, Israel keeps a watchful eye on Jewish people worldwide, and doesn’t mind violating another country’s sovereignty to do it. Just ask Uganda, Sudan, Argentina, Germany, Norway, France, Italy, UAE, Tunisia … get the point? If a group of Jewish people are taken hostage or under threat somewhere, the IDF or Mossad will come and get them out.

The Mossad is another story entirely. Chance are good that any country even thinking about invading Israel is probably full of, if not run by, Mossad agents. Israel will get the entire plan of attack in plenty of time to hand an invader their own ass.

Just before the 1967 Six Day War, Mossad agent Eli Cohen became a close advisor to Syria’s defense minister. He actually got the Syrians to plant trees in the Golan Heights to help IDF artillery find the range on their targets.

4. Japan

Japan military parade WWII
Japanese military students parade in front of Japanese officials and the German and Italian ambassadors in Tokyo in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

One of the world’s oldest civilizations, Japan was able to keep its culture and history relatively intact over the centuries because mainland Japan has never been invaded by an outside force.

Contrary to popular belief, the “divine wind” typhoons didn’t destroy the Mongol fleets outright. Mongol invaders were able to land on some of the Japanese islands, but after a few victories and a couple of stunning defeats, the Japanese exhausted the Mongols and they were forced to retreat back to their ships. That’s when the first typhoon hit.

Mongols invaded again less than seven years later with a fleet of 4,400 ships and some 140,000 Mongol, Korean, and Chinese troops. Japanese samurai defending Hakata Bay were not going to wait for the enemy to land and actually boarded Chinese ships to slaughter its mariners.

Since then, the Bushido Code only grew in importance and Japan’s main enemies were – wait for it – the Japanese. But once Japan threw off its feudal system and unified, it became a force to be reckoned with. Japan shattered the notion that an Asian army wasn’t able to defeat a Western army in a real war, soundly defeating the Russians both on land and at sea in 1905, setting the stage for World War II.

Although the attack on Pearl Harbor was not a great idea, the Japanese made sure the Americans knew that any invasion of Japanese territory would cost them dearly – and they made good on the promise, mostly by fighting to the death.

The United States got the message, opting to drop nuclear weapons on Japan to force a surrender rather than attempt an invasion. Even though the US got the demanded surrender, Japan was not a conquered country. The United States left Japan after seven years of occupation and the understanding that communism was worse than petty fighting.

“Bushido” began to take on a different meaning to Japanese people. It wasn’t just one of extreme loyalty to traditions or concepts, or even the state. It morphed throughout Japanese culture until it began to represent a kind of extreme bravery and resistance in the face of adversity.

While many in Japan are hesitant to use Bushido in relation to the Japanese military, the rise of China is fueling efforts to alter Japan’s pacifist constitution to enable its self-defense forces to take a more aggressive stand in some areas.

Since the end of World War II, Japan has worked not to dominate the region militarily but economically. Japan’s booming economy has allowed the country to meet the threats raised by Chinese power in the region, boosting military spending by $40 billion and creating the world’s most technologically advanced (and fifth largest) air force, making any approach to the island that much more difficult.

5. The Philippines

Katipuneros
Armed Filipino revolutionaries known as Katipuneros.

The 7,000-plus islands of the Philippines are not a country that any invader should look forward to subduing. The Philippines have been resisting invaders since Filipinos killed Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.

For 300-plus years, people of the Philippines were largely not thrilled to be under Spanish rule, which led to a number of insurrections, mutinies, and outright revolts against the Spanish.

As a matter of fact, for the entire duration of Spanish colonialism in the Philippines, the Moro on Sulu and Mindinao fought their occupiers. That’s a people who won’t be conquered.

By the time the people of the Philippines rose up to throw off the chains of Spanish colonizers, there was already a massive plan in place as well as a secret shadow government ready to take power as soon as the Spanish were gone.

This revolution continued until the Spanish-American War when the Americans wrested the island nation away, much to the chagrin (and surprise) of the Philippines.

Freedom fighters in the Philippines were so incensed at the American occupation that US troops had to adopt a new sidearm with a larger caliber. Moro fighters shot by the standard-issue Colt .38-caliber M1892 Army-Navy pistol would not stop rushing American troops, and the US troops in the Philippines were getting killed by lack of firepower.

Meanwhile, the Philippines created a government anyway and immediately declared war on the United States, and even though it ended with the capture of rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo, American troops would be in the Philippines until 1913, attempting to subdue guerrillas in the jungles and outlying islands. Until, that is, Japan invaded.

If you want to know how well that went for the Japanese, here’s a photo of Filipino freedom fighter Capt. Nieves Fernandez showing a US soldier how she hacks off Japanese heads with her bolo knife.

So even though the actual Armed Forces of the Philippines might be a little aged and weak, anyone trying to invade and subdue the Philippines can pretty much expect the same level of resistance from the locals.

Consider hot climate and dense jungles covering 7,000-plus islands, full of Filipinos who are all going to try to kill you eventually – the Philippines will never stop resisting.

Like the Moros, who are still fighting to this day.

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Blocked by the EU’s export ban, Japan got its first AstraZeneca vaccines from the US instead

Japan vaccine vaccination COVID-19
A medical worker receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine on March 5, 2021, in Tokyo.

  • Japan received a cargo of AstraZeneca vaccine from the US, the company told local media Thursday.
  • Japan wanted to source doses from the EU, but couldn’t since the bloc banned exports in January.
  • The US too has been criticized for stockpiling doses of the vaccine, which it has not approved.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Japan’s first AstraZeneca vaccines are coming from the US, not the EU, after the bloc restricted vaccine exports in January, Reuters reported on Thursday.

The company had planned to import the vaccine from Europe, Tomoo Tanaka, AstraZeneca’s head of vaccine development, said in an interview with Asahi Shimbun on Thursday, Reuters reported.

But restriction on vaccine exports imposed by the EU in January led to a change in plans. Instead, Japan imported undiluted vaccines from the US, Tanaka.

Reuters confirmed the news with an AstraZeneca spokesperson.

The Japanese government has ordered enough doses of the two-shot AstraZeneca vaccine for its 60 million population, around half the population, the Japan Times reported.

90 million doses of the vaccine will be produced domestically by local companies Daiichi Sankyo, JCR Pharmaceuticals Co, and others, Reuters reported.

Daiichi Sankyo said on March 12 it had started manufacturing the vaccine “using undiluted solutions provided by AstraZeneca,” the company said in a press release. It is not clear whether they were waiting on undiluted vaccine doses from abroad.

The EU announced on March 24 that it would again restrict vaccine exports for six weeks, in a bid to keep up with supply issues among the member states.

The bloc had previously said it authorized requests for millions of doses of vaccines to be shipped to 29 countries, including Japan, Reuters reported on March 5.

The US came under scrutiny when it was found that it had blocked the export of doses of the AstraZeneca shot.

Millions of doses were stockpiled in vaccine plants on US soil, even though the country had not approved the shot. As of April 1, it still has not.

Speaking on the issue of vaccine supply, President Joe Biden said at the time that Americans should be “taken care of first.”

Since then, the US has shipped doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Mexico and Canada, as a loan. Details about the conditions under which Japan has received doses from the US were not immediately clear.

Last week, AstraZeneca had to revise its US trial efficacy data downwards from 79% to 76% after US health officials said the company used outdated data in their first submission.

More experts are calling for the US to export their AstraZeneca vaccine doses, because, although it is likely that the vaccine will be approved by the FDA, it might come too late for the US vaccine rollout, Insider’s Andy Dunn reported.

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Here are 5 things you can do at the newly opened Super Nintendo World theme park, from Mario Kart racing to riding Yoshi

Super Nintendo
The theme park is located in Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.

  • Super Nintendo World recently opened at Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan.
  • The opening comes after eight months of delays due to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Insider rounded up five things visitors can do at the theme park.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Super Nintendo World theme park recently opened at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, after months of delays.

The park was originally meant to open last summer ahead of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo but this timeline was disrupted by the pandemic. It then set an opening date of February but this also got postponed after Osaka declared a state of emergency because of high rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

In the days since opening, visitors have been immersing themselves in the park’s many attractions while wearing red Mario hats and other Nintendo-themed outfits, CNN reported. The pent-up excitement of visitors was the latest sign of people itching to get back to normality and enjoy fun days out, as mass vaccine rollouts continue around the world.

Visits will not be a totally carefree experience, though, as there are many safety protocols in place at the park. These include mandatory masks, temperature checks, social-distancing measures, signs requesting riders to refrain from shrieking, and readily available hand sanitizer.

Read on for five things you can do at Super Nintendo World

1. Compete in a Mario Kart race

Racing around a Mario Kart circuit is probably one of the most high-profile activities. Using AR headsets, visitors can experience a five-minute race. They can also see projections of other characters and collect virtual coins.

2. Ride Yoshi

Visitors can hop onto a Yoshi-themed ride as they search for Captain Toad during a treasure hunt. Its leisurely pace is good for children and families looking to kick back and enjoy the weird and wonderful scenery.

3. Purchase a Power-Up Band

Power-Up Bands are wristbands that tally scores, coins, and digital stamps. The devices can also be synced with a smartphone device.

4. Punch giant question blocks

The recreation of question and note blocks from the Mario franchise is likely to satisfy diehard fans. Visitors can jump and punch the blocks until their heart’s content.

5. Chow down on gaming-based snacks

Among the quirky eateries are Kinopio’s Cafe, Pit Stop Popcorn, and Yoshi’s Snack Island. The food items are just as zany as you might imagine, and include such delicacies as mushroom-flavoured popcorn, tiramisu question blocks, and koopa shell-shaped calzones.

The launch of the park comes after a slump in the theme park industry. Though Super Nintendo World is only open to those living in Japan, Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the Mario franchise, said he hopes the whole world will come and visit it when the pandemic is over, The New York Times reported.

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