- China suspended issuing visas Tuesday for South Koreans to come to the country for tourism or business.
- It is apparently in retaliation for COVID-19 testing requirements imposed by South Korea on Chinese travelers.
- Japan’s Kyodo News service said the ban would also affect Japanese travelers.
A brief notice posted online by the Chinese Embassy in Seoul said the ban will continue until South Korea lifts its “discriminatory measures on entrance by China” to the country.
No other details were given, although China has threatened to retaliate against countries that require travelers from China to show a negative test result for COVID-19 taken within the previous 48 hours. The regulation appeared to apply to new applicants and said nothing about South Koreans currently holding visas in Beijing and other Chinese cities where companies such as Hyundai and Samsung have a large presence. China’s announcement appeared to be grounded on its stiff demand for reciprocity in foreign relations. Around a dozen countries have followed the U.S. in requiring negative tests for travelers coming from China, which has lifted most of its “zero-COVID” restrictions for the first time in three years.
At a daily briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin defended China’s anti-pandemic measures, adding that “Regrettably, a handful of countries, in disregard of science and facts and the reality at home, have insisted on taking discriminatory entry restriction measures targeting China…”
China’s ambassador to Australia said the response of those nations to China’s COVID-19 outbreak hadn’t been proportionate or constructive. Xiao Qian told reporters in Canberra that China had shifted its strategy late last year from preventing infections to preventing severe cases. He said countries should use a science-based response. “Entry restrictions, if they’re targeted at China, they’re unnecessary,” the ambassador told reporters.
The online notice at the embassy in Seoul did not say why China singled out South Korea for retaliation, although president and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s deeply nationalistic government has long resented Seoul’s alliance with the U.S. The once-cordial ties between South Korea and its biggest trading partner soured after China targeted businesses, sports teams and even K-pop groups to protest deployment of an advanced U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea.
China abruptly reversed its strict pandemic containment requirements last month in response to what it says was the changing nature of the outbreak. That came after three years of lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing. The abrupt decision by Xi’s government to end controls that shut down factories and kept millions of people at home will move up the timeline for economic recovery, but might disrupt activity this year as businesses scramble to adapt, forecasters say.
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