Japan and South Korea hit out at China over new Covid requirements

China has introduced transit curbs for travelers from South Korea and Japan amid an escalating diplomatic standoff between the countries over Covid-19 curbs.

The move comes as South Korea and Japan, along with several other countries, limited flights from China and mandated Covid-19 tests on arrival.

Chinese embassies in both Seoul and Tokyo announced on Tuesday that short-term visas for travelers to China will be suspended.

Chinese foreign ministry also lashed out at the governments of the countries, calling their testing requirements “discriminatory”.

State media Global Times said Beijing’s retaliation was a “direct and reasonable response to protect its own legitimate interests, particularly after some countries are continuing hyping up China’s epidemic situation by putting travel restrictions for political manipulation”.

China requires negative test results from visitors from all countries.

Both South Korea and Japan are among the top shopping destinations for Chinese tourists.

Annual spending by Chinese tourists abroad reached $250bn before the pandemic, reported Reuters.

The diplomatic standoff may have implications for economic relations between the three neigbouring countries.

A chip industry source in South Korea who declined to be named said to Reuters: “We won’t be able to make short-term business trips, but such trips had dwindled during COVID anyway, so we don’t expect an immediate impact. But if the situation lasts long, there will be an effect.”

Japanese department store operator Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd and supermarket operator Aeon Co have also announced that there may be a need to rethink personnel transfers to China depending on how long the suspension lasts.

Amid concerns that China may be underreporting the scale of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the World Health Organisation has said that Beijing may also be underreporting deaths.

Liang Wannian, head of a COVID expert panel under China’s national health authority, told reporters on Wednesday that deaths can only be accurately counted after the pandemic is over.

While international health experts have predicted at least one million Covid deaths this year in China, authorities have only reported just over 5,000 since the pandemic began.

(Additional reporting by agencies)