Chinese authorities have stopped issuing short-term visas to South Korean citizens in the country’s first retaliation against Covid entry restrictions on arrivals from China.
“Visas for business, tourism, medical treatment, transit and general private affairs will be suspended for South Korean citizens effective today,” the Chinese Embassy in Seoul said in a statement. The measures will be “adjusted” if South Korea cancels its “discriminatory” entry restrictions on China, the embassy added.
Beijing has decried recent restrictions and screenings placed on travelers from China, after a number of countries moved to require testing from travelers from China, citing concerns over the country’s recent surge of infections – and limited data about the outbreak – since Beijing dropped its stringent Covid controls last month.
South Korea went a step further on January 2 by suspending short-term visa applications from its consulates in China until the end of the month. It also requires people traveling from China to take a PCR test within 24 hours of arrival and remain in isolation until receiving negative results.
From January 5, it has also asked people traveling from China to present a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of departure or a rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours.
China’s move follows a Monday phone call between Foreign Minister Qin Gang and his South Korean counterpart Park Jin, during which Qin “expressed concern” over the restrictions and urged Seoul to take an “objective and scientific” approach, according to a readout from the Chinese side.
Both countries made official comments on the situation during regular briefings Tuesday, with the South Korean side saying their Covid-related restrictions on travelers from China were “based on scientific and objective grounds.”
South Korea’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Lim Soo-suk said the government had been “transparently sharing relevant information with the international community, and has continued to communicate with the Chinese side.”
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin echoed China’s previous language, saying the country “resolutely objects” to “discriminatory” entry restrictions imposed on Chinese travelers and “will take proportionate countermeasures.”
“A few countries, with disregard towards scientific facts and actual epidemic situation in China, continued on imposing discriminatory entry restrictions … We call on these countries to come up with appropriate pandemic control measures based on facts and science, not engage in political manipulation, discriminatory measures, and impact normal personnel exchange and cooperation,” he said.
The move comes just days after China significantly eased strict border controls that had required all entrants to the country, whether Chinese nationals or eligible foreign nationals, to undergo multiple Covid-19 tests and mandatory hotel quarantine.
In recent weeks, more than a dozen countries including the United States, France, Canada, Japan and Australia have mandated testing on travelers from China, citing concerns about the level of data reporting from China and the potential for new variants of the virus to emerge there. No such variants have yet been reported.