War of Words Escalates Between Japan and Russia

War of Words Escalates Between Japan and Russia

Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu said planned Russian military drills on Japanese-claimed islands were “unacceptable.”

The training sites announced by Russia in July include Etorofu and Kunashiri, two of the four islands Japan calls the Northern Territories. Russia controls the four islands and Japan claims them. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan’s territory. 

Hirokazu said Japan told Russia that its move runs counter to Japan’s position on the Northern Territories and is unacceptable. He said Japan urged Russia to exclude the islands from the training grounds.

Hirokazu added that Japan will take appropriate measures after it gathers information.

Russia, Japan, and the Kuril Islands

The dispute over Etorofu and Kunashiri dates back to the Yalta Conference between the UK, the United States, and the Soviet Union in the waning days of World War II in Europe. 

However, for the U.S., the war was far from over. American forces were nowhere near the Japanese home islands, and at that time, the atomic bomb was not much more than a pipe dream. American president Franklin Roosevelt knew he needed Soviet assistance to finish off Japan. He also knew that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was not the kind of guy who would give you something for nothing.

So, Roosevelt promised Stalin he could have a “sphere of influence” over the northern Kuril Islands, an island chain that stretches from Japan to Kamchatka. These islands were vital to the Soviets, and modern Russians as well. If a foreign power occupies these islands, it could bottle up the Russian Pacific fleet for the entire winter, as all other ports are iced in. Additionally, these islands have vast natural resources, like natural gas reserves and fish. 

Roosevelt’s promise was intentionally vague. These guys were smart enough not to put much down on paper. Stalin, who usually took as much as he could get, assumed “sphere of influence” meant “occupy” and “the northern Kuril Islands” meant “all of them.” Japan, a proud nation that the war humbled, did not want to lose any more territory.

The 1951 Treaty of San Francisco, which formally ended hostilities, was intentionally vague as well. It ordered Japan to surrender its claims to the Kuril Islands, but it did not formally award the territory to the Soviet Union. A 1956 pact between Japan and the Soviet Union did not settle these questions either.

More recently, around 2007, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda were on the brink of an agreement. However, the good times ended abruptly in 2008, when new Japanese school textbooks said the disputed islands were Japanese.

Later, in the late 2010s, Putin and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe held several talks about the Islands. But they did not agree on anything. Now, with this latest saber-rattling, Russia seems to have reversed course and dug in its heels on the issue.

Contractors in Japan

Unfortunately for the American private military contractors in Japan, Russia is not the only schoolyard bully threatening to take the country’s lunch money. North Korea has made similar threats. Moreover, China has indirectly threatened Japan. Its conflict with Taiwan could easily spill over into Japan. Additionally, its threats to put the South China Sea on lockdown could cut off about 90 percent of Japan’s oil supply.

Today, the American military presence in Japan is much smaller than it has been in decades. The people who once reluctantly embraced G.I. Joes as peacekeepers now want them out. In fact, in the early 2000s, America planned to move almost all its Japanese assets to Guam and Hawaii. The Chinese menace changed those plans and bought the Americans a little more time. No one is sure how much more time.

Therefore, private military contractors are effectively the first line of defense against Russia, North Korea, China, or whoever takes up arms against Japan.

Contractors are used to this role. U.S. law limits private military contractors to defensive operations. They know how to dig in, take fire, and return fire. If you can do those three things, you can repel almost any invading army.

Advanced hypersonic missiles from these countries might be a bigger threat than an invasion. All three of these bullies possess missiles that can hit targets in Japan with pinpoint accuracy. Fortunately, many contractors carry laptops instead of machine guns. Private military contractors maintain pivotal missile defense systems. In many cases, they worked for the companies which designed, built, and deployed these systems.

Perhaps most importantly, contractors know how to do these jobs without antagonizing locals. They know how to keep their heads down. Additionally, contractors are valuable politically on both sides of the Pacific Rim. American politicians can keep the U.S. military presence to a minimum without sacrificing security. Japanese politicians can say the American G.I. Joes have left.

Injury Compensation Available

These contractor duties are dangerous as well as vital. Even if the bullets are not flying, trauma injuries, like falls, could happen to anyone at any time. Occupational diseases could strike without warning as well. Frequently, conditions like toxic exposure illnesses are hardly noticeable until they become almost untreatable.

Defense Base Act benefits are available if the injury or disease occurred in an overseas war zone and the injury or disease is related to the victim’s deployment. These benefits include lost wage replacement and medical bill payment.

For DBA purposes, overseas basically means any geographic location outside the 50 states. Contractors in Guam are eligible for DBA benefits, even though Guam is technically part of the United States. 

Additionally, the injured contractor must work for the State Department, Defense Department, or another government agency. Contractors employed by some foreign governments are eligible for benefits as well.

On a side note, U.S. citizenship or residency is not a requirement. Many contractors employ foreign nationals in various capacities These individuals are eligible for DBA benefits.

On a similar note, a place can be a war zone even if it is completely peaceful. If a country has a U.S. military presence, even something as small as a military observer in an embassy, the entire country is a war zone for DBA purposes.

Deployment-related connection is perhaps the most controversial qualification. Fortunately for injured victims, the law in this area is very broad and victim-friendly. American courts have consistently ruled that DBA victims must only show a nexus, or indirect connection, between their injuries and their deployments.

Assume Michelle is out for a morning jog, both to stay in shape and for personal enjoyment when a car hits her. Even though her injury was not deployment-related and it occurred outside work hours, she is probably eligible for DBA benefits.

For more information about these benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.