Joe Biden has confirmed that the United States is considering a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The move would be aimed at protesting China’s human rights record, including what Washington says is genocide against minority Muslims.
Asked on Thursday if a diplomatic boycott was a possibility as he sat down with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, Mr Biden said: “Something we’re considering.”
It would mean that no US officials would be sent to attend the games in February.
If made, this decision would be a rebuke of Chinese president Xi Jinping, just days after the two leaders worked to ease tensions in a virtual summit, their first extensive talks since Mr Biden took office in January.
Activists and members of Congress from both parties have been pressing the Biden administration to diplomatically boycott the event.
It comes as the US government has accused China of carrying out a genocide against Muslim ethnic groups in its western Xinjiang region, something that Beijing denies.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told a regular briefing on Thursday that US consideration of a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics was driven by concerns about human rights practices in the Xinjiang province.
Ms Psaki told reporters: “There are areas that we do have concerns: human rights abuses. We have serious concerns.”
“Certainly there are a range of factors as we look at what our presence would be,” she said, while declining to provide a timeline for a decision.
“I want to leave the president the space to make decisions,” she said.
Sources with knowledge of the administration’s thinking said there was a growing consensus within the White House that it should keep US officials away from the event.
Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was talking to countries around the world about “how they’re thinking about participation,” but left a deadline for a decision unclear.
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