• Kyodo

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Japan and China are expected to agree as soon as this month on resuming travel between the two countries by both short- and long-term businesspeople, Japanese government sources said Tuesday.

The nations are looking to revive their pandemic-hit economies, the world’s second and third largest, through the restart of two-way business travel.

Some 9.59 million people visited Japan from China in 2019, including around 370,000 for business, both the largest numbers among all countries and regions, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

“Japan and China are extremely important neighbors to each other and there had been many reciprocal trips before the outbreak of the coronavirus,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference Tuesday, without specifying when the bilateral agreement was expected to be reached.

“It is extremely important that economic exchanges (between Japan and China) return to a recovery path through the resumption of travel,” Kato said.

Under the envisioned agreement, short-term business travelers will be exempted from having to enter 14-day self-isolation upon arrival to the respective countries provided they take necessary preventive measures against spreading the virus, such as turning in their travel itineraries and providing proof of negative test results, the sources said.

Expatriates and other long-term residents will still need to stay in self-quarantine for 14 days, they said. Students will also be allowed to travel between Japan and China if they observe a self-quarantine period.

Japanese and Chinese officials have been in negotiations since July to reopen borders reciprocally, given the relatively low number of infections in their respective countries, they said.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in their first telephone call in September to continue the talks in hopes of achieving a speedy resumption of business travel.

If reached, the two countries’ bilateral agreement on the restart of short-term business trips will be Japan’s fourth, following similar deals with Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.

During a meeting between Suga and his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, in Hanoi on Monday, the two leaders agreed to resume regular flights between their countries at an early date, and to implement a “business track” that would allow executives and workers to travel without a 14-day quarantine period provided they follow certain COVID-19 precautions.

Phuc said he is ready to support Japanese investment in Vietnam including by accommodating its real estate and human resource needs, adding that he is hopeful bilateral relations will strengthen further.

Earlier this month, Japan agreed with South Korea to resume business travel between the two countries.

Around 5.58 million South Koreans visited Japan in 2019, the second highest number by nationality following China, according to the JNTO. Of the visitors from South Korea, about 310,000 traveled for business purposes.

Japan, which began imposing entry bans on foreign nationals in February to curb the spread of the virus, has recently started to reopen its borders as part of efforts to revive the domestic economy.

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