Japan, Singapore to ease COVID-19 travel restrictions from Sept.

Aug 13 , 2020. 30 minutes ago – 16:48 | KYODO NEWS

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi (L) and his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan meet in Singapore on Aug. 13, 2020. (Photo courtesy of the Japanese Foreign Ministry)(Kyodo)

Japan and Singapore agreed Thursday to ease travel restrictions implemented in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic from September, targeting businesspeople and expatriates.

“We will just need to confirm small details before the resumptions of reciprocal visits,” Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters online after reaching a deal with his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan at their meeting in the Southeast Asian country.

At the meeting, Motegi also said Japan “expressed grave concern” over the situation in Hong Kong, citing the recent arrests of Agnes Chow, a pro-democracy activist, and nine others under a new national security law.

The arrests “raise doubts over freedom of speech and the press in Hong Kong,” Motegi said.

Japan, which currently bans entry of all foreign nationals from 146 designated countries and regions in principle, said in late July it will newly enter into discussions with 12 Asian economies, including Singapore, on ways to resume travel.

Motegi and Balakrishnan were in late-stage talks on conditions to reopen borders, such as requiring a certain quarantine period, testing negative for the virus or submission of itineraries during the visits, according to Japanese officials.

The two ministers, in their first in-person meeting since November last year, also discussed the current situation in the South China Sea, where China is stepping up maritime claims, and ways to thwart North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions, Motegi said.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Motegi also met separately with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

On Friday, the Japanese minister will travel to Malaysia for talks with Mohamed Azmin Ali, the country’s minister of international trade and industry, and Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein. After returning to Japan, Motegi will then visit Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar from Aug. 20 to 25.

Motegi visited Britain for four days last week, becoming the first member of Abe’s Cabinet to travel overseas since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March.