Japan won’t send government delegation to Beijing Olympics

Japan says it won’t send a delegation of ministers to represent the government at the Beijing Games but three Olympic officials will attend

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a regular news conference that “we have no plans to send a government delegation.”

Matsuno said the three officials will attend at the invitation of the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees to represent the JOC and JPC.

Asked if it’s a diplomatic boycott, Matsuno responded by saying: “We don’t use a particular term to describe how we attend.”

Japan’s decision not to send a government delegation follows a similar move by the United States and some other democratic nations including Australia, Britain and Canada, which cited China’s human rights violations.

The Chinese foreign ministry appealed to Tokyo not to politicize sports.

“We hope and urge the Japanese side to honor its commitment with China to supporting each other in hosting the Olympic Games and not politicizing sports,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said. “China is confident in working with all sides to uphold the Olympic spirit of ‘together’ and present the world a streamlined, safe and splendid Olympic Games.”

Japan, as both a U.S. ally and with China its biggest trade partner, is in a difficult position and has taken a softer approach than its western partners on human rights situations in China’s Xinjiang region and Hong Kong.

“Japan believes that it is important for China to guarantee the universal values ​​of freedom, respect for basic human rights, and the rule of law, which are universal values ​​in the international community,” Kishida said later Friday.

Japan took those points into consideration and made its own decision, he added.

Kishida has faced growing calls from the China hawks within his governing party as well as opposition lawmakers to quickly make a decision to diplomatically boycott the Beijing Games.

China has criticized the United States and other countries for violating political neutrality required in the spirit of the Olympic Charter.

Japanese athletes will take part in the Games, which are scheduled to open on Feb. 4.

“Japan hopes the Beijing Olympics will be held as the festival of peace in the spirit of Olympics and Paralympics,” Matsuno said.

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More AP Winter Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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