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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 22)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:03 November 22, 2021

Possible Olympics boycott
China should pay heed to human rights concerns

U.S. President Joe Biden's confirmation about a possible boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics is likely to further strain already tense relations with China. On Thursday, Biden said he was considering a U.S. diplomatic boycott of the Olympic Games over China's human rights abuses.

His remarks came three days after he held a virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping to ease tensions in the great power competition. They indicated that the two countries might plunge into a more serious conflict without any compromise. Biden is certainly trying to put more pressure on Chine to improve its human rights situation, particularly in its western Xinjiang region.

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the Biden administration of violating the Olympic spirit. "Politicizing sports is against the Olympic spirit, and harms the interests of athletes from all countries," he said Friday. He denied U.S. allegations about genocide, forced labor and other human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.

Yet such denial tactics won't solve the problem. China needs to pay more attention to mounting calls by the international community to stop its widespread rights abuses. It should not repeat its crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong. Otherwise, it cannot successfully host the Olympics in February. We urge Beijing not to turn a blind eye to boycott campaigns which are gaining momentum in the U.S. and European countries. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said that he is considering diplomatically boycotting the Winter Games.

A diplomatic boycott, if enforced, could deal a setback to the host country. It means that government representatives of other countries will not attend the opening of the Olympics although athletes will be allowed to compete. It would be better for Biden and Xi to reach a compromise to prevent the Beijing Olympics from turning into a political flashpoint. They must make efforts not to see a replay of the 1980 Moscow Olympics which the U.S. boycotted over the Soviet Union's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. In retaliation, the Soviet Union refused to send its delegation to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. We hope such Cold War rivalry in the sports arena will not happen again.

A potential boycott of the upcoming Beijing Games is likely to undermine South Korea's efforts for peace on the Korean Peninsula. President Moon Jae-in has floated the idea of declaring a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War together with leaders of related countries during the Olympics in Beijing. If President Biden is absent from the opening ceremony, Moon cannot put his peace initiative into action. As such he stands little chance of mediating between the U.S. and North Korea for the resumption of their stalled denuclearization talks.

Furthermore, South Korea may find it ever more difficult to strike a balance between the U.S. and China, if the superpower rivalry continues to escalate. The Moon administration needs to overhaul the country's long-held policy of relying on the U.S. for security and depending on China for economic growth. It is imperative to map out a new strategy to survive the Sino-U.S. conflict.
(END)

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