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International relations

Indonesia, South Korea reopen borders for business from Monday

Deal is Jakarta's first in Asia as talks continue with China, Singapore, and Australia

Passengers have their documents checked before boarding flights at a Soekarno Hatta Airport in Jakarta amid the coronavirus outbreak.    © Reuters

JAKARTA -- Indonesia announced Thursday it has agreed with South Korea a travel corridor arrangement for essential business trips between the two countries from Monday.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on Thursday said the arrangements cover business and official trips, but not tourism, with strict health protocols to be implemented.

"This arrangement is expected to facilitate visits by the private sector and essential business [travellers] who will continue investment projects between the two countries, so that economic activities will go on," Marsudi said.

Indonesia's new arrangement with South Korea, its first with an Asian country, follows that with the United Arab Emirates that took effect late July. Similar talks are progressing with Australia, China and Singapore, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan said earlier this week.

Indonesian officials had said in June that Southeast Asia's largest economy was also seeking to create a "travel bubble" with Japan, one of its top business partners.

However, Indonesia has not been included in the list of 10 Asian countries -- including Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar -- Japan was seeking to reopen business travel with.

Coronavirus cases in Indonesia have continued to rise, with new confirmed infections averaging 2,000 a day over the past week. As of Thursday, Indonesia has reported a total of 132,816 cases, with Jakarta worst affected, followed by East Java Province.

The country has the second highest number of cases in East and Southeast Asia after the Philippines. But Indonesia's death toll is more than double the Philippines' at nearly 6,000.

Separately, resort island Bali is seeking to reopen to international visitors on Sept. 11, after it welcome domestic tourists back in late July. Officials in Jakarta, however, have issued conflicting statements over whether they support Bali's plan.

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