NEWS China suspends visas to Japan, South Korea amid COVID-19 dispute

China suspends visas to Japan, South Korea amid COVID-19 dispute

BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese embassy stopped issuing new visas to South Koreans and Japanese on Tuesday, in apparent retaliation for recent COVID-19 measures those countries imposed on travelers from China.

It was unclear whether China would extend the visa suspension to other countries that tested passengers from China for the virus after a surge in COVID-19.

Embassies in Tokyo and Seoul announced the suspension in brief online announcements.

The Seoul notice, posted on the embassy’s WeChat social media account, said the ban would last until South Korea lifted its “discriminatory entry measures” against China. The bulletin covers tourist, business and some other visas.

China’s foreign ministry threatens retaliation Last week it targeted countries that had announced new virus testing requirements for travelers from China. At least 10 countries in Europe, North America and Asia have done so recently, with officials expressing concern over a lack of information about the outbreak in China and the possible emergence of new variants of the virus.

South Korea also stopped issuing most short-term visas at its consulate in China in January, in addition to government activities, essential business and humanitarian reasons. Japan has not announced similar steps.

The Chinese embassy in Tokyo said only that visa issuance had been suspended. The announcements appear to apply only to new applicants and not to current visa holders.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters in Argentina that Japan had protested the move through diplomatic channels.

“It is very regrettable that China has restricted visa issuance,” he said, adding that Japan would respond appropriately while observing the outbreak in China and the amount of information the government shared.

“Our government’s measures to strengthen anti-virus measures for travelers from China are based on scientific and objective evidence… We have communicated with the Chinese side in advance,” a statement from South Korea’s foreign ministry said.

A Japanese foreign ministry official said earlier that it would be “regrettable” if restrictions were imposed. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, as is customary.

Denying visas to South Korean or Japanese businessmen could delay a recovery in business activity and potential new investment after China abruptly lifted anti-virus controls last month.

Business groups had earlier warned that global companies were shifting investment plans out of China as foreign executives struggled to access it amid the pandemic. Executives from a handful of foreign auto companies and other businesses have visited China over the past three years, but many rely on Chinese employees or managers already in the country to conduct business.

A Korean restaurant owner in Beijing said the news had forced friends to postpone plans to visit China. He spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear his business might be affected. He added that he was preparing to renew his Chinese work visa and did not know if it would be affected.

In a phone call on Monday before the visa suspension was announced, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang expressed “concern” to his Chinese counterpart Park Jin about the measures taken by South Korea. Qin said he “hopes the South Korean side will uphold an objective and scientific attitude.”

China’s move appears to be based on its demands that its citizens be treated the same as those of other countries. About a dozen countries have followed the U.S. in requiring a negative test before leaving China, a virus test upon arrival at the airport, or both.

“It is regrettable that a small number of countries insist on adopting discriminatory entry restriction measures against China in disregard of scientific facts and domestic realities,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday. “China resolutely rejects and takes reciprocal measures.”

Asked whether to suspend new visas to South Koreans and Japanese, he did not respond directly, saying only that he had “made it very clear”.

World Health Organization and several countries accuse China of concealing data about its outbreak.A WHO official said Tuesday that the agency sees no immediate threat For the outbreak in Europe from China, more information is needed.

China’s ambassador to Australia said the countries’ response to China’s COVID-19 outbreak was disproportionate or not constructive.

Xiao Qian told reporters in Canberra that China had shifted its strategy from preventing infection to preventing severe cases late last year. Countries should use science-based responses, he said.

“Entry restrictions, if they are aimed at China, are unnecessary,” the ambassador told reporters.

South Korea’s once-friendly relationship with China, its largest trading partner, has soured in recent years after Beijing targeted businesses, sports teams and even K-pop groups over protests over the deployment of an advanced U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea.

Last month, China abruptly reversed its “zero COVID” strategy for trying to contain the virus in response to what it said was the changing nature of the outbreak. The previous three years of lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing had sparked rare politically charged protests on the streets of Beijing and other major cities.

The most optimistic forecast says Chinese companies Consumer activity could resume as early as the first quarter of this year. But until then, entrepreneurs and households will face a painful squeeze from a surge in virus cases, leaving employers without enough healthy workers and keeping cautious customers away from malls, restaurants, hair salons and gyms.

China now faces surge in cases and hospitalizations With the start of the Lunar New Year travel rush, which will accelerate in the coming days, the outbreak will spread in major cities and prepare to spread further into less developed regions. While international flights are still on the decline, authorities say they expect domestic rail and air travel to double from a year earlier.


Associated Press writers Joe McDonald in Beijing, Donghyung Kim in Seoul, South Korea, and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Related posts

NEWS Australia to remove British monarchy from its banknotes


NEWS Analysts’ wargame finds China’s invasion of Taiwan would fail, but US pays big price | Taiwan


NEWS European markets remain cautious after China eases anti-epidemic measures