South Korea rejects U.S.-led diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday that his country will not join a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, suggesting that the U.S.-led effort may already be running out of steam just a week after it began.

Speaking at a press conference in Canberra after a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Mr. Moon said South Korea is not even considering such a step. Mr. Moon even downplayed that Monday’s South Korea-Australia bilateral meeting had much to do with China.

“Regarding the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games, South Korea did not receive any request to join it, and the government is not considering it,” Mr. Moon said during Monday’s press conference, according to The Korea Times.

“Today’s state visit has nothing to do with China,” he said. “South Korea’s stance is that it is very important for the country’s national interest to expand the supply chain for key natural resources … as well as enhancing bilateral defense cooperation” between South Korea and Australia.

The Biden administration announced its diplomatic boycott of the Beijing games last week, with Britain, Australia and Canada quickly following suit. But Seoul, a key U.S. ally in the region, would likely face immediate consequences if it joined the effort.

As China’s largest trading partner, South Korea is particularly vulnerable to economic retaliation by Beijing.

Biden administration officials, meanwhile, have framed the decision as a moral one.

“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Paralympic Games, given [China’s] ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week, referencing allegations of ongoing crimes against its Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.

But other Western allies have been reluctant to get on board. French President Emmanuel Macron, for example, has downplayed the effort and said that it carries little weight if the U.S. and its allies still send their athletes to Beijing.

“To be clear: You either have a complete boycott, and not send athletes, or you try to change things with useful actions,” he said at a press conference last week, according to French media. 

‘We’re talking about something rather symbolic,” he said of the boycott.

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