China has approved issuing some types of visas to Japanese and South Korean citizens as exceptions of its policy of suspending visa facilities after the neighbors tightened border controls on visitors from China, a Chinese government source said Monday.

A senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official indicated at a press conference last Friday the government has been flexibly implementing the policy introduced earlier last week, with exceptions made for diplomats, government officials and businesspeople facing urgent needs.

Passengers wearing face masks arrive at Beijing Capital International Airport from Narita airport near Tokyo on Jan. 16, 2023. (Kyodo)

However, the Chinese government has not released the criteria for exceptional visa issuance, with the source saying it will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Japan and South Korea are among a number of countries that have strengthened their border controls targeting those traveling from China to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as Beijing reopened its borders and abandoned quarantine measures on Jan. 8 despite an explosion of infections following the significant easing of its antivirus steps.

On Jan. 10, China halted visa issuance for Japanese and South Korean travelers, criticizing their measures on visitors from China as "discriminatory" entry restrictions. Beijing has not clarified the timing of its resumption.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin reiterated Monday that COVID response measures should be "science-based and proportionate" and "not politicized," urging countries to work with China to resume normal people-to-people exchanges and cross-border travel.

The countries that tightened border controls on travelers from China cited a lack of credible infection data and fears that a new virus variant could emerge in the Asian country.

On Saturday, Chinese health authorities reported nearly 60,000 deaths related to COVID-19 between Dec. 8 last year and Thursday, but the figure does not include those who died at home and the actual death count is believed to be even higher.

Related coverage:

Japan PM disappointed with China's visa suspension

China halts visa-free transit policy for Japan, S. Korea citizens

China suspends visa issuance to Japanese, S. Korean travelers