Incheon International Airport (Source: Screencapture of Google maps picture by Fyodor Filip).

BEIJING, CHINA — Beijing said Wednesday it would scrap visa-free transit for South Korean and Japanese citizens, stepping up a diplomatic tit-for-tat after both countries placed travel curbs on visitors from China.

South Korea and Japan have in recent weeks imposed fresh travel requirements on all visitors from China, as the world’s most populous country battles a surge in COVID cases.

China hit back at what it deems “unacceptable” curbs, ending short-term visas for all South Korean and Japanese citizens on Tuesday.

Immigration authorities stepped up that retaliation Wednesday “in response to the recent discriminatory entry restrictions imposed by a few countries on Chinese citizens.

“The national immigration authorities have, with immediate effect, suspended the issuance of visas for Korean and Japanese citizens and the 72/144-hour visa-free transit policy for South Korean and Japanese citizens,” China’s National Immigration Administration said in a statement.

Travellers from scores of countries are eligible for 72-hour visa-free transit through China if they can show proof of pending travel to a third country, with some eligible for a 144-hour stay in certain cities and provinces.

That policy was complicated by the pandemic, with China requiring all inbound travellers to undergo mandatory quarantines — a requirement lifted on Sunday.

Tokyo said Wednesday it had protested China’s decision to scrap short-term visas for its citizens, demanding that Beijing reverse the decision.


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