JAPAN’S foreign minister, Taro Kono, has urged Myanmar’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to guarantee the safe and voluntary return of displaced Rohingya Muslims to the troubled Rakhine state.

While Kono is visiting Myanmar, the Japanese government announced a grant of $3million (£2.2 m) to help facilitate the repatriation of the Rohingyas.

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees on 23 November, and Myanmar, said it would start the process by 23 January. The exact numbers and extent of the repatriation is still unclear.

“We have decided to provide the aid in response to the agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh to represent an international message of support so that the repatriation can be carried out promptly,” said Japanese Foreign Ministry official Shinobu Yamaguchi.

Kono’s three-day visit to Myanmar includes travelling to Rakhine state. Humanitarian groups and independent media still can not visit the area freely.

More than 650,000 Rohingyas have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape a brutal crackdown in which security forces have been accused of systematic abuses tantamount to ethnic cleansing.

During a meeting on Friday, Kono asked Suu Kyi’s government to allow humanitarian and media access to the affected area, the resettlement of returned refugees, and the implementation of recommendations made by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.

Kono also said Japan plans to give further aid of $20m (£14.8m) to improve humanitarian conditions and development in Rakhine state. “We are thankful to Japan for its willingness to support the needs both for short term and long term,” Suu Kyi told the joint news conference.

“The money will be paid in a timely manner based on the progress of repatriation,” Yamaguchi added.

Burma’s state-run media said on Wednesday that authorities have started the land work to construct buildings to accommodate returned refugees from Bangladesh in northern Rakhine, where refugees will be temporarily placed after their citizenship is scrutinised.