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

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

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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The owner of the Suez canal container ship said he hopes the huge vessel will be freed by Saturday and apologized for the ‘tremendous trouble’ caused

Suez canal ever given
The Ever Given, trapped in the Suez Canal, Egypt, as of Thursday March 25 2021.

  • The Japanese owner of the container ship stuck in the Suez Canal has apologized for the disruption it caused.
  • Yukito Higaki told local media that an attempt would be made to refloat the vessel on Saturday.
  • Workers who were trying to remove the ship will be taking advantage of tidal movements, he said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Japanese owner of the giant container ship that has been blocking a vital passageway in the Suez Canal has apologized for causing “tremendous trouble” and said he hopes it will be refloated as soon as Saturday.

The MV Ever Given has been stuck sideways across Egypt’s canal for more than three days, clogging a vital artery for the global economy and forcing multiple ships to turn around and reroute through Africa.

For days, experts have been racking their brains about how to dislodge the huge vessel, which ran aground on Tuesday after a sandstorm affected visibility.

Yukito Higaki, president of Shoei Kisen –the company that owns the boat – told local media on Friday that 10 tugboats had been deployed to dredge the banks and canal bottom.

Read more: The processor shortage that made the PlayStation 5 and some cars harder to find was almost over – until a ship got stuck in the Suez Canal. Here’s why it’s likely to get even worse.

“The ship is not taking water. There is no problem with its rudders and propellers. Once it refloats, it should be able to operate,” Higaki said, according to the BBC.

He added that crews were working to dislodge the 1,312 ft-long ship as early as Saturday by taking advantage of strong tidal movements.

“We apologize for blocking the traffic and causing the tremendous trouble and worry to many people, including the involved parties,” Higaki added, according to Al Jazeera.

Higaki also said the company had considered removing some of the thousands of containers from the vessel but realized this would be a complex operation that could take days. He said it remained an option if all other efforts fail.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), the ship’s technical manager, said on Friday that an attempt to refloat the vessel had failed despite crews used a specialized suction dredger, which can shift 70,000 cubic feet of material every hour, the BBC reported.

The White House also offered to send help to the Suez Canal on Friday, including a team of US Navy experts.

“We’re tracking the situation very closely,” Psaki told reporters during a press conference. “We understand that Egyptian officials are working to remove the tanker as soon as possible and continue traffic.”

Meanwhile, the number of other vessels waiting to pass through the Suez Canal was “growing exponentially,” warned Joe Reynolds, the chief engineer of the 2006 container ship, Maersk Ohio, according to the BBC.

The blockage has caused a huge traffic jam of more than 200 ships in the Red Sea.

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This Japanese snack shop has been serving roasted rice cakes to Shinto worshippers for over 1,000 years

  • Ichimonjiya Wasuke, known as Ichiwa, was founded in the year 1001 to serve the Shinto priests at the adjacent Imamiya Shrine in Kyoto, Japan.
  • The only item on the menu is aburi-mochi, roasted rice cakes on skewers that are dipped in sweet miso sauce.
  • Worshippers pray for good health at the shrine and then eat the aburi-mochi as an unofficial part of the ritual.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
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The Tokyo 2020 Olympics may cost more than $26 billion – and the estimate keeps rising

  • The cost to put on the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo is estimated at more than $26 billion.
  • Postponing the games for one year added another $2.8 billion to the estimated total.
  • The Japanese public is largely opposed to holding the games, and there’s still a chance they will be canceled.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics are already the most expensive summer games ever.

And that’s before the games have even taken place.

The Japanese public is largely against holding the Olympics, and there’s no guarantee they will happen at all. Now, the City of Tokyo, the International Olympic Committee, and athletes themselves are bleeding cash to keep the dream alive.

Watch the story on Business Insider Today »

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China’s ships are getting bigger and more aggressive, and Japan is scrambling to keep up

china coast guard scarborough
A Chinese Coast Guard ship approaches Filipino fishermen in a confrontation off of Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, September 23, 2015.

  • China’s massive Coast Guard, and a new law expanding what it can do, worry its neighbors, especially Japan.
  • Japan is bolstering its own Coast Guard and relying on its alliance with the US to keep its edge against Beijing in their disputes at sea.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

On February 1, a new law granting the China’s Coast Guard (CCG) the ability to use lethal force against foreign vessels in waters China claims went into effect.

The law worries countries that have territorial disputes with China, especially Japan, where the chief concern is that it could lead to the use of force against Japanese vessels around the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that Japan administers and China claims as the Diaoyu Islands.

Hundreds of Chinese vessels, including Coast Guard and Navy ships, routinely enter the waters around those islands, sometimes behaving aggressively, as part of China’s gray-zone operations.

Last year, Chinese vessels were spotted around the Senkakus for a record-setting 333 days, including 111 consecutive days of continuous Chinese presence.

A worrying new law

chinese coast guard
A China Coast Guard ship in the East China Sea near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, December 22, 2015.

The part of the law that causes the most anxiety is Article 22, which authorizes the CCG to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”

Article 20 of the law authorizes the CCG to demolish “buildings, structures, and various fixed or floating devices” built by foreigners “in the sea areas and islands under our jurisdiction.”

The provisions are not unprecedented. Many coast guards and maritime security agencies operate with similar rules. Indonesia and Malaysia routinely sink foreign fishing vessels (some of them Chinese) in their waters. Even Argentina has fired on and sunk Chinese fishing vessels operating in its waters illegally.

The use-of-force clauses are also a small part of the law, which has 84 articles and is primarily intended to clarify the CCG’s role amid China’s numerous military reforms. China previously had up to five different maritime organizations and has been working to merge them.

“If you read the actual language, it doesn’t read as if it was intended to be a threat to China’s neighbors or even the United States,” Zack Cooper, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told Insider. “It reads much more bureaucratically than the Coast Guard getting some expanded capabilities.”

The CCG “was already doing things where they were pretty actively using force in the South China Sea, East China Sea, and elsewhere.” Cooper added. “So, this isn’t really that much of a change from how the CG has been operating.”

The law may actually help prevent misunderstandings. “Some degree of clarification and standardization of procedures is actually a welcome development,” Timothy Heath, a senior international and defense researcher at the Rand Corporation think tank, told Insider.

“This shows the Coast Guard is becoming more professional. It is clarifying to its own people and to the world the conditions under which the CCG regard as appropriate for them to consider all these actions,” Heath added.

The world’s largest Coast Guard

senkaku diaoyu china ships
Chinese and Japanese Coast Guard ships near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, September 10, 2013.

But the risk of escalation is still very real, especially since the CCG will implement the new law in disputed territory. The clarifications and new guidelines may actually embolden Chinese ship captains.

The older, more vague rules prompted some restraint because Chinese officials “weren’t totally sure what the conditions were that would be appropriate for them to use force or take any of these actions,” Heath said.

“Now with that clarity provided through these regulations, these commanders on the water … may feel that, in their judgement, they have a right to respond to incidents much more rapidly and with much greater force than the past,” Heath told Insider.

The CCG certainly has the hardware to be bold. It has over 130 large patrol ships (each displacing more than 1,000 tons), making it “by far the largest coast guard force in the world” according to a 2020 Pentagon report.

CCG ships are also among the largest and the best armed of any coast guard. The CCG’s two Zhaotou-class cutters alone displace over 10,000 tons – more than a US Navy Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser.

Many carry guns up to 76 mm, which are usually only seen on naval vessels. Most CCG patrol vessels can also carry helicopters.

Japan Coast Guard
Members of a Japan Coast Guard anti-terrorist unit intercept a vessel during an exercise in Tokyo Bay, May 18, 2008.

Japan’s Coast Guard (JCG) is much smaller, with only 63 vessels displacing more than 1,000 tons, and its ability to use deadly force is heavily restricted, which means it sometimes has to call the Japanese Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF/JASDF) for assistance.

Japan has made known its displeasure with the new law. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga warned it could “intensify tensions,” and Japan’s defense minister called it “absolutely unacceptable.”

The greatest fear is an escalating encounter with China’s three maritime forces: Hundreds of vessels from China’s Maritime Militia could flood the Senkakus and be intercepted by the JCG. In response, the CCG could be called on and open fire. This would force the JMSDF and JASDF to respond, potentially leading to the Chinese Navy and Air Force showing up, risking war.

Japan works to prevent such a scenario. The JCG maintains a constant presence and responds very quickly to incursions around the Senkakus. They also shadow CCG vessels instead of aggressively confronting them and sometimes call JASDF jets to conduct flyovers.

A military buildup and a strong alliance

Japan Coast Guard
US Coast Guard cutter Kimball and Japanese Coast Guard ship Akitsushima during an exercise near Japan’s Ogasawara Islands, February 21, 2021.

Japan has been slowly building up its military’s capabilities in response to the Chinese threat. The JCG plans to acquire 12 more large patrol vessels by 2023, bringing its fleet to 75.

The JMSDF also plans to acquire new, advanced ships that are smaller, cheaper, and easier to build. This includes the 30FFM-class frigate, the first of which, Kumano, was launched last November and is expected to be commissioned in 2022. The JMSDF hopes to have 22 of the frigates by 2032.

The JMSDF itself is expanding, and is converting its two Izumo-class helicopter carriers to be able to carry F-35B fighters.

Japan is also modernizing its infantry arsenal, building up bases in its southwest, and increasing its F-35 fighter arsenal with plans for an indigenous stealth fighter as well. It has also created an amphibious unit designed for island warfare and modeled on the US Marine Corps.

But Japan will never win a numbers game with China, which has more resources and industrial capacity. In addition to the largest coast guard in the world, China also has the largest navy.

“The big problem for the Japanese is that they’re simply outnumbered and outgunned,” Heath said.

Japan Coast Guard
A Chinese marine surveillance ship next to Japanese Coast Guard ships near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, September 24, 2012.

Increasing Chinese maritime and aerial incursions are straining Japan’s ships, sailors, aircraft, and pilots.

“The problem they have is that the steady-state operational tempo is going up.” Cooper said of the Japanese. “Therefore, it’s going to be harder and harder for them to play man-on-man defense.”

But Tokyo is not alone. The US has a treaty obligation to come to Japan’s defense, and President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have all said the treaty applies to the Senkakus.

“We hold with the international community about the … sovereignty of the Senkakus, and we support Japan obviously in that sovereignty,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said February 23. “We would urge the Chinese to avoid actions using their Coast Guard vessels that could lead to miscalculation and potential physical and material harm.”

The US, which has also criticized the new Chinese law, has sent its own Coast Guard to keep an eye on China and to train with Japan’s Coast Guard. US Marine Corps F-35Bs also may operate from the Izumos after they are converted.

China’s new coast guard law certainly adds a new level of complexity to tensions in the East China Sea, but Japan’s efforts and the US-Japan alliance present challenges to China.

“It doesn’t really matter how much presence Japan has or China has at any given time” around the Senkakus, Cooper said. “The alliance will still apply, and the US has been very clear in standing behind Japan on this.”

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