(Bloomberg) — South Korea criticized Japan’s decision to ask its citizens to quarantine themselves as “irrational and excessive,” as Tokyo’s efforts to limit the coronavirus outbreak renew tensions between the oft-feuding neighbors.
The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed “deep regret” over Japan’s latest travel restrictions in a statement Friday, saying they came “without prior or sufficient discussion with us, and we strongly urge these measures be immediately withdrawn.” The ministry hinted at deeper mistrust between the two sides, saying “we cannot help but be suspicious of a separate intention other than prevention of the virus.”
The ministry said it would summon the Japanese ambassador later Friday.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s government has lodged repeated protests in recent days as some 100 nations placed travel bans or restrictions on arrivals from his country, where authorities are coping with the world’s largest tally of confirmed cases outside China. Japan joined the trend Thursday, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying his country on Monday would start quarantining visitors from South Korea, as well as China.
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South Korea is especially suspicious of the move by Japan, which comes as the two sides attempt hold together an unease truce after a bitter trade and diplomatic feud last year. The dispute is rooted in disagreements between the two sides over whether Japan has shown proper contrition for its 1910-45 occupation of the Korean Peninsula.
Moon, who’s party faces a crucial legislative election next month, has been criticized at home for not imposing tough measures on visitors from China, its biggest trading partner. Japan’s own travel measures came after Abe faced pressure over his coronavirus response, which was initially seen as muted in comparison to other countries.
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Flights from China and South Korea will be restricted to Narita International Airport near Tokyo and Kansai International Airport in Osaka, while arrivals by ship will be halted, Abe said Thursday. Japan will suspend some visas already issued to Chinese and South Korean nationals, he added.
Prior to the move, Japan had banned entry to foreigners who had been in the hardest-hit areas such as South Korea’s Daegu city. Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said Friday that South Koreans and Chinese visitors would be asked to quarantine themselves at hotels and homes, and Kyodo News reported his ministry as saying that the quarantine was a request and non-binding.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at [email protected]
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