(ATTN: UPDATES with new info in last 3 paras)
SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- The foreign ministry voiced regret Friday over Japan's decision to extend entry restrictions on visitors from South Korea for another month over new coronavirus concerns, an official said, calling for the prompt lifting of the measure.
On March 9, Tokyo started asking visitors from Korea to stay at designated facilities for two weeks and suspended a 90-day visa-free entry program for South Koreans. In response, Seoul tightened quarantine procedures on visitors from Japan and halted its own visa-waiver program for Japanese people.
"We express regret that the Japanese government has decided to extend the entry restrictions for another month at a time when there has been evident progress in our quarantine efforts as demonstrated in a recent steady slowdown in new COVID-19 cases," the official said on condition of anonymity.
"Separate from our regional cooperation in stemming the spread of COVID-19, the government will continue to urge the Japanese government to promptly lift the entry restrictions," the official added.
Tokyo notified Seoul of its plan to extend the entry restrictions through a diplomatic channel on Wednesday evening, the official said.
Asked about whether Seoul would take any action in response to Tokyo's move, a senior ministry official said that Seoul would retain the current measures against Japanese, such as the suspension of the visa-waiver program.
"Our measures did not have any particular time limits in the first place," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
"We would take necessary steps depending on how the situation in Japan pans out. But there has been an increasing trend there, and we have been thinking of keeping the current measures rather than readjusting or reconsidering them," he added.