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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Olympic diplomacy includes regional challenges

China Beijing Winter Olympics 2022
Ng Han Guan/AP
A security camera is seen near the logos for the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics at the Main Distribution Center built to provide logistic support for the games in Beijing, China, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Last week, the United States announced a “diplomatic boycott” of the Beijing Winter Olympics. While several American allies have joined the movement, the reaction has been more complicated in Northeast Asia.

It looks like South Korea will be a full participant in the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Late last week, a top Foreign Ministry official said South Korea plans to “play the role of the host country of the previous Olympics.”

Those games in PyeongChang, South Korea ended in late February 2018 — exactly two weeks before the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus had reached the level of a pandemic.

South Korea is a strong U.S. military ally, but also has been careful to maintain cordial relations with China, which is its largest trading partner.

While China is also Japan’s largest trading partner, the Tokyo government has a slightly different balancing act.

Next year marks 50 years of diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Beijing.

Still, many key lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are calling for Japan to join the diplomatic boycott — and so are some lawmakers in the main opposition party.

Late last week, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sounded like a politician playing for time when he told the lower house of Japan’s parliament, quote, “I will decide the Japanese government’s response at an appropriate time in the light of national interests after comprehensively considering diplomatic and other factors.”

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