Beijing Olympics boycott move… Korea put to the test again

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Trilateral Summit held at the White House on Jan. 18. “The United States is considering diplomatically boycotting the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics,” Biden said in a bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau ahead of the summit. Washington/Reuters

After the US officially announced that it was considering a ‘diplomatic boycott’ for the Beijing Winter Olympics in February next year, Western countries are showing a move to participate. The face-to-face clash between the United States and China over the Beijing Winter Olympics is expected to increase the diplomatic burden on South Korea.

During a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House on the 18th (local time), President Biden responded to a reporter’s question about whether to consider a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, saying, “This is an issue we are considering.” This is the first time that President Biden has publicly mentioned a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

A ‘diplomatic boycott’ means sending a delegation but not sending a government-level delegation. The reason for the US boycott is to protest the Chinese government’s suppression of human rights in Xinjiang and Uyghurs. International human rights groups are also actively supporting the boycott of the Beijing Olympics.

Since the United States is dealing with the Beijing Olympics boycott on the diplomatic agenda of the seven major countries (G7), there is a possibility that the G7 member countries, Canada, Australia, and European Union (EU) countries, who have criticized China’s human rights issue, will participate. In fact, the British daily The Times reported on the 20th that “there is an active discussion about boycotting the Beijing Olympics within the British government.”

If the US boycott becomes a reality, the South Korean government’s plan to make the Beijing Olympics an opportunity to restart the Korean Peninsula peace process will be in vain. Rather, as the confrontation between the US and China, which should cooperate to resolve the Korean Peninsula problem, intensifies, the path to peace on the Korean Peninsula may become more distant. In addition, if a large number of Western countries join the boycott of the Beijing Olympics, the Korean government cannot help but fall into trouble while monitoring the trends of other U.S. allies and friendly countries. A government source said, “It is urgent to come up with a countermeasure at the government level in preparation for a full-fledged discussion of the Olympic boycott in the international community.”

This incident is not just a problem limited to participating in the Olympics, but it is also an example of the reality of Korean diplomacy, where its diplomatic position is gradually decreasing due to the accelerating competition for hegemony between the US and China. The Beijing Olympics may not be a turning point for South Korea, but a symbolic event that means that the era is imminent when it is no longer possible to take security and economic benefits while maintaining friendly relations between the United States and China.

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