Japan will consider its stance on the Beijing Winter Olympics on its own terms, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday, after U.S. President Joe Biden suggested a possible diplomatic boycott of the February 2022 sporting event.
Some in the United States and Europe have called for not sending government officials to the Beijing Games, citing China’s alleged human rights abuses in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region.
“Each country has its own position and way of thinking,” Kishida told reporters. “Japan will consider things from its own perspective.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also considering a diplomatic boycott of the games in protest of China’s record on human rights, the Times reported Saturday.
An “active discussion” in government is ongoing, with Foreign Minister Liz Truss said to be in favor of the boycott, the newspaper said.
In Japan, conservative lawmakers are leading calls for caution on sending a government representative to the Beijing Games, due in part to repeated intrusions by Chinese government ships into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Beijing claims the Japanese-administered islands, which it calls Diaoyu.
In a meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Foreign Affairs Division on Tuesday, Masahisa Sato, director of the division, voiced concern over Japan’s representatives at the Games.
“Sending a high-level official to the opening ceremony (of the Beijing Games) is not an easy issue,” he said.
At the same time, Japan hopes to avoid a serious confrontation with China — with which it has deep economic ties — as the two countries mark the 50th anniversary next year of the normalization of diplomatic relations.
The Japanese government has put a heavy emphasis on dialogue in human rights diplomacy.
“I doubt that choosing not to send a delegate due to the human rights issues alone is advisable,” a government official said.
China sent Gou Zhongwen, minister of the General Administration of Sport of China, to the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer.
The Japanese government plans to take public opinion and other factors into account to decide whether to send a representative to the Beijing Games. A Foreign Ministry official said sending a sports official to the event may not be a problem.
On Friday, China urged the United States not to politicize the Olympics, while emphasizing that the issue of Xinjiang is a domestic affair.
“Politicizing sports is violating the spirit of the Olympics,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing, adding that China will be able to “present a simple, safe and wonderful event for the world.”
Observers said the message to the U.S. could also be taken as an implicit one to Japan, as well.
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