Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expressed disappointment Wednesday over China's decision to suspend the issuance of visas to Japanese travelers in response to Tokyo tightening border controls on visitors from China to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections.
"It is extremely regrettable that China has unilaterally implemented restrictions that seem to have nothing to do with countermeasures against the novel coronavirus," Kishida told reporters while visiting Britain.
Japan has lodged a protest with China through diplomatic channels and demanded it terminate the restrictions, he said.
Kishida underscored that Japan's border measures for arrivals from China are temporary, citing the spread of infections in mainland China and the difficulty of grasping the severity of the situation.
"We are implementing it so as not to stop the international flow of people," he said.
The remarks came after China took additional steps to counter tighter border controls implemented by Japan and South Korea, suspending visa-free stays in China for citizens of the two countries that are transiting to a third nation.
In Tokyo on Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the government will provide support to domestic firms amid fears China's move will negatively impact businesses.
Japan "will closely monitor the infection situation in China as well as how the country discloses information on it," the top government spokesman added.
Since late last year, China has drastically eased its strict antivirus rules, including no longer restricting people's movements, in an abrupt departure from its "zero-COVID" policy involving lockdowns and isolation measures. The development caused an explosion in coronavirus cases nationwide.
Japan responded by tightening border controls for travelers from mainland China, requiring them to test for COVID-19 upon arrival.
As China reopened its borders and abandoned quarantine measures on Sunday, Tokyo further strengthened its border controls for travelers whose trips originated in China, requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test before departure.