Recalled Japanese envoy returns to Russia

Japan`s envoy was recalled following Russian Prez`s visit to disputed islets.

Tokyo: Japan`s ambassador to Russia, who was recalled in a row over a visit by President Dmitry Medvedev to a disputed island, is returning to Moscow, news reports said on Sunday.

Ambassador Masaharu Kono left Narita airport for the Russian capital this afternoon, Kyodo News and Jiji Press reported.

The ambassador returned to Japan on Wednesday as Tokyo protested against the Russian leader`s November 01 visit to one of the Kuril islands, which lie north of Japan`s Hokkaido island and are known as the Northern Territories in Japan.

The four disputed islands were seized by the Soviet Union at the close of World War II and are administered by Russia, though claimed by Tokyo.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan`s government had planned to have Kono stay until the end of a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, to be held in Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo, next weekend.

But Tokyo reversed that plan, hoping to mend ties by sending the ambassador back to Moscow to help prepare for a planned meeting between Kan and Medvedev on the sidelines of the APEC summit, Kyodo said.

Kan also ordered the ambassador to gather more detailed information on the issue, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week, that Medvedev planned to visit other disputed islands, Kyodo added.

Immediate confirmation of the reports was not available.

Medvedev on Thursday voiced optimism about the APEC summit, saying: "I expect we will succeed in adopting a number of joint measures to overcome the consequences of the global economic crisis."

His Kurils visit came at a sensitive time for Japan, which has also faced a tense territorial dispute with China, while trying to mend soured ties with Washington, after a disagreement over a plan to relocate a US airbase.