President Joe Biden confirmed on Thursday that he is mulling a US diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing.
“It’s something we’re considering,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office following a bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
A senior administration official told CNN on Wednesday that Biden is not expected to attend the upcoming Olympics in China this February and that his administration is on the verge of implementing a diplomatic boycott of the games.
The President has not signed off on having no government officials attend, the senior administration official cautioned on Wednesday, but discussions regarding the matter have all leaned in that direction.
The topic of the Olympics and Biden’s attendance did not come up during his three-and-a-half hour meeting Monday night with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
However, the two leaders engaged in a “healthy debate” on a number of issues, according to a senior Biden administration official present for the discussions.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday afternoon that the decision to consider a boycott of the Olympics “doesn’t say anything” about the Biden-Xi meeting.
“(W)e’ve said from … the beginning of this administration, as it relates to how we engage with China, that we see it through the prism of competition, not conflict,” Psaki added.
Psaki repeated the administration’s serious concerns about China’s human rights abuses, adding that “certainly, there are a range of factors as we look at what our presence would be.”
When pressed for more information about what a potential diplomatic boycott would entail, and what that would mean for athletes, Psaki said she didn’t have an update about what the US presence would be.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have advocated for a diplomatic boycott in protest of China’s human rights abuses. Some Republicans have even suggested no American athletes attend either, but the official said a full boycott is unlikely right now.
When asked whether Biden had been in touch with congressional lawmakers about the prospective boycott, Psaki said the White House is “in regular touch at a range of levels with members of Congress about a range of issues, including the relationship with China and including an issue like this.”
Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US and allies are in “active conversations” about how to approach the upcoming Winter Olympics in China.
Blinken, appearing virtually at the New York Times DealBook Summit, was asked whether he thinks American athletes should participate since he has said in the past that China is involved in genocide, given its policies toward Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province.
“We are talking to — to allies, to partners, to countries around the world about how they’re thinking about the games, how they’re thinking about participation,” Blinken said. “It’s an active conversation. We’re coming — we’re coming up on the games, but let me leave it at that for today.”
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