U.S. markets closed
  • S&P 500

    +58.48 (+1.44%)
  • Dow 30

    +415.12 (+1.26%)
  • Nasdaq

    +208.43 (+1.74%)
  • Russell 2000

    +34.10 (+1.93%)
  • Crude Oil

    +1.33 (+1.79%)
  • Gold

    -10.70 (-0.54%)
  • Silver

    +0.25 (+1.03%)

    -0.0062 (-0.56%)
  • 10-Yr Bond

    -0.0570 (-1.61%)

    -0.0058 (-0.47%)

    +0.1080 (+0.08%)
  • Bitcoin USD

    -149.26 (-0.52%)
  • CMC Crypto 200

    +7.58 (+1.23%)
  • FTSE 100

    +11.31 (+0.15%)
  • Nikkei 225

    +258.55 (+0.93%)

China retaliates against travel restrictions by suspending short-term visas for Japanese and South Koreans

Beijing has made good on its promise to retaliate against countries that impose entry restrictions on Chinese travellers by suspending the issuance of some visas for South Korean and Japanese citizens.

Chinese officials said the suspension was needed to protest against "discriminatory entry restrictions" on its citizens.

The move came after several countries adopted pandemic-related curbs on Chinese travellers, such as requiring Covid-19 tests before departure and limiting flights. Some of those measures have also affected Hong Kong.

Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.

"It is regrettable that a small number of countries still insist on adopting discriminatory entry restrictions against China in disregard of scientific facts and the actual situation of the pandemic in their own countries. China firmly opposes this and will take reciprocal measures," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday.

"We once again call on the relevant countries not to engage in political manipulation, not to have discriminatory practices, and not to affect normal personnel exchanges and cooperation between countries."

The Chinese embassy in South Korea said on Tuesday that visas for business, tourism, medical treatment, transit and general private affairs would be suspended for South Koreans.

The Chinese embassy in Tokyo also said China had suspended issuing some visas to Japanese travellers until further notice.

South Korea had earlier suspended issuing short-term visas to Chinese travellers until January 31, blocking tourists from entering the country.

Flights between South Korea and China are limited to Seoul's Incheon International airport, with flights bound for Busan, Daegu and Jeju suspended.

On Tuesday, Seoul announced that flights from Hong Kong and Macau would also only be permitted to land at Incheon, ruling out other destinations.

China's announcement came after its newly appointed Foreign Minister Qin Gang protested against the travel restrictions in a phone call with his South Korean counterpart Park Jin on Monday.

Qin expressed his concerns and urged Seoul to uphold an "objective and scientific attitude", according to China's foreign ministry - the first time that he, as foreign minister, has criticised any country over restrictions on Chinese travellers.

During a press briefing, South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Lim Soo-suk said Seoul was "regretful" for China's action, and said the South Korean government had conveyed its position to Beijing through diplomatic channels.

"The government's measures to strengthen quarantine are based on scientific and objective grounds," he said. "We will continue to communicate closely while conveying our government's position to the Chinese side once again."

A spokesperson for Korean Air, South Korea's flag carrier, said of the visa suspension: "There are no further changes in our flight operations between Korea and China. We will continue to monitor the situation".

And Hana Tour, South Korea's largest tourist agency, said the effects of the interruption would not be significantly different from China's zero-Covid policy.

Last month, Seoul announced its new Covid-19 measures restricting Chinese travellers from entering South Korea from January 5, requiring negative PCR test results before and after the flight.

"We will prepare to take stronger measures in case the situation gets worse, if we see a rapid increase of infections from new arrivals or [the] appearance of new variants," said South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo.

On Monday's call with Qin, Park said Seoul's pandemic measures were based on "scientific evidence".

During the call, Qin did not directly notify the Korean side of the visa ban, although he spent a "significant amount of time" complaining about the issue, according to a source familiar with the discussion.

According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, the percentage of Chinese visitors confirmed to have positive PCR test results after entering South Korea decreased from 31.4 per cent before the border measures to 12.6 per cent after the restrictions took effect.

Some other nations, such as the United States and Japan, have imposed restrictions on Chinese travellers, citing concerns over the recent Covid-19 surge in China and the emergence of a new variant.

Beijing said those measures were unscientific.

Additional reporting by Jun Mai

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.