China has suspended issuing visas to Japanese and South Korean travelers, its embassies in Tokyo and Seoul said Tuesday, after it threatened to take countermeasures against countries that introduced tighter COVID-19 entry restrictions on visitors from China.

The Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, on its website, said the issuance of ordinary visas for Japanese citizens was being suspended from Tuesday and the timing of its resumption will be notified later.

Japan's Foreign Ministry filed a protest with the Chinese Embassy over the measure and demanded it be revoked, with a Japanese official criticizing China for being "extremely selfish."

Travelers are pictured at a check-in counter at Beijing Capital International Airport on Jan. 8, 2023 -- ahead of Lunar New Year holidays starting Jan. 21 -- amid concern over the further spread of COVID-19 following the Chinese government's official ending the previous day of its "zero COVID" policy. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Earlier Tuesday, the Chinese Embassy in Seoul said the issuance of short-term visas for South Korean citizens to China for purposes such as business, tourism, medical treatment and transit has been halted as instructed by the Chinese government.

It said the visa suspension would remain in effect "until discriminatory entry restrictions against China are lifted."

A South Korean Foreign Ministry official expressed regret over the measure.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a press conference Tuesday in Beijing that China "firmly opposes the discriminatory entry restrictions in disregard of scientific facts" adopted by some countries and is taking reciprocal measures.

The spokesman called on relevant countries not to "engage in political manipulation" and "affect normal personnel exchanges and cooperation" between China and those nations.

Besides Japan and South Korea, several other countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Italy and Spain, have also stepped up border controls for travelers from China.

As China reopened its borders and abandoned quarantine measures on Sunday, Japan further tightened its border controls for travelers there, requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test before departure amid a surge of cases and fears that a new virus variant could emerge in the neighboring country.

From Thursday, Japan will include travelers flying directly from Macau to rules on entries from China, which require showing proof of a negative COVID test pre-departure.

A travel agency in Tokyo said it could not apply for almost any type of Chinese visa after being notified by the Chinese Visa Application Service Center of the suspension. Reservations for visa procedures became unavailable Tuesday through the center's website.

Japanese students who applied for visas to study in China were also informed Tuesday that visa issuance has been halted.

The latest step is expected to affect Japanese business operations in China, with workers unable to travel from Japan.

Japanese businessmen in Shanghai expressed concerns that the visa suspension could lead to reduced chances for sales negotiations and a halt in personnel reshuffles.

An executive of a chemical manufacturing company in Japan called the measure "troublesome" even though Chinese staff can manage local operations without personnel traveling from Japan.

Another manufacturing company official in Japan said, "We have to reschedule our planned business trips" to China.

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang expressed concerns about South Korea's tighter border controls for arrivals from China during telephone talks with his South Korean counterpart Park Jin and voiced hope that Seoul would uphold "an objective and scientific attitude," according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

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