China halts visa issuance for Japanese and S. Koreans

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A visitor from mainland China to Japan submits papers at Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture on Sunday.

In retaliation for Tokyo and Seoul heightening border controls for arrivals from China, Beijing on Tuesday stopped issuing visas to Japanese and South Korean nationals.

“Regrettably, a handful of countries … have insisted on taking discriminatory entry restriction measures targeting China,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Tuesday during a regular press conference. “China firmly rejects this and will take reciprocal measures.”

Travelers on direct flights from mainland China to Japan are required to submit a certificate of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to departure to enter the country. The visa response that Beijing claims as “reciprocal” makes it nearly impossible for Japanese nationals to travel to mainland China.

The Chinese Embassy in Japan announced on its website Tuesday night it would begin suspending visa issuance procedures temporarily from that day. Applications for visas other than on humanitarian grounds will no longer be accepted and the resumption date has yet to be determined, according to several travel agencies.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno condemned the move during a press conference on Wednesday morning.

“It’s extremely regrettable that China unilaterally imposed restrictions on visa issuance for reasons other than measures against the novel coronavirus,” he said.

Matsuno added that Japan had lodged a protest with China through diplomatic channels, requesting that the measure be abolished.

The protest was made by officials including Takehiro Funakoshi, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry, to the Chinese Embassy in Japan as well as via the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, who is on a trip abroad, said in Buenos Aires on Tuesday afternoon, “Japan is taking border controls with the greatest possible care not to hinder international travelers.”

The Japanese government plans to continue the current border control measures for the time being, while keeping a close eye on infections and information disclosure in China. Tokyo is not considering any countermeasures.

The Chinese Embassy in Seoul also announced that Beijing is suspending the issuance of short-term visas for South Korean nationals from Tuesday. The embassy said Beijing would adjust the policy subject to the lifting of South Korea’s entry restrictions targeting China.

In response, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said, “The Korean government’s quarantine policy has been implemented in accordance with scientific evidence.”