Masaharu Kono, former Japanese Ambassador to Russia. Ministry of Foreign Affairs photo.

Ambassador to Russia Masaharu Kono has been sacked after his embassy office discounted the possibility that Russian President Dmitri Medvedev might visit the disputed Northern Territories. Japan claims the territories, which were seized in 1945 by the Soviet Union, and held on to by Russia. Medvedev visited Kunashir Island (known to the Japanese as Kunashiro) in early December.

Kono is expected to be succeeded in January by Chikahito Harada, ambassador to the Czech Republic.

Tokyo is trying to rebuild its Russia policy under pressure from Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, the sources said.

It is rare for an ambassador in a key post to be replaced less than two years into the job. Kono was appointed top envoy to Moscow in February 2009. (Link)

It seems to me that sacking someone for failing just once to predict Russian intentions would leave very few people outside of Russian government with a job. Here’s hoping whatever job Mr. Kono finds himself at next is more forgiving of mistakes — maybe a TV news weatherman, or in the U.S. intelligence community.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 536 post(s) on Japan Security Watch