There is a growing consensus in the South Korean government that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to South Korea might have to be rescheduled with the coronavirus outbreak showing no sign of slowing down soon.
On Tuesday, a senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press conference, “A delay in President Xi’s visit to Japan, which was originally scheduled for April, has received much media coverage in Japan,” adding that his visit to South Korea might also be affected by the new coronavirus. Although these remarks were about the agreement between Tokyo and Beijing to postpone the visit to Autumn, it is worth noting that it was the first time a high ranking South Korean official mentioned a possibility of delaying President Xi’s visit to Seoul. However, the official also said, “All preparations are proceeding according to the original plan.”
Some experts say it would also be difficult to confirm diplomatic schedules with Russia, which celebrates 30 years of diplomatic relations with South Korea this year. The latest coronavirus outbreak has disrupted the South Korean government’s plan to arrange Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Seoul for this month at the earliest. Reportedly, a number of working-level meetings have already been delayed or cancelled.
While the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs is looking closely at the possibility of Washington imposing an entry ban on Seoul, the U.S. government announced that it would “tighten screening rules.” “There will be a 100 percent screening on all direct flights at all airports across Italy and across South Korea,” said U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in a press conference on Monday. However, when asked about stricter travel restrictions, U.S. President Donald Trump said he would place further restrictions on countries hit particularly hard by the infection.
Meanwhile, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs elevated Monday its warning against travel to six regions in South Korea including Gyeongsan, Yeongcheon, Chilgok, Uiseong, Seongju and Gunwi from “Level1” to “Level 3.” Level 3, which advises the public not to travel, is the second highest level.
As of Tuesday afternoon, a total of 89 nations, which takes up 46 percent of the UN member countries, have banned the entry of or isolated South Korean nationals. According to the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the number of Koreans who have self-isolated or have been quarantined exceeded 1,200 as of Tuesday morning. It is reported that 960 and 270 of them are in China and Vietnam, respectively, while Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Qatar have more than 10 people each who are isolated.
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