Senior Japanese government officials will likely skip the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February, joining the United States in a diplomatic boycott, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Saturday, citing multiple sources with knowledge of the matter.
Earlier this week, Canada joined Australia, Britain and the US in saying they would not send top officials to the games, citing longstanding concerns over China’s human rights record.
China has called the boycotts “political posturing” and a smear campaign.
The Yomiuri said Japan is likely to make a formal decision by the end of the month.
Japan’s national broadcaster NHK also confirmed the report saying Tokyo “is leaning toward not sending cabinet ministers to the upcoming Beijing Olympics”.
The only officials now expected to attend are Olympics-related personnel, including Seiko Hashimoto, the former head of Tokyo’s Olympic organising committee, the newspaper said.
On Friday, Japan’s chief spokesman said nothing had been decided on whether the country was planning on sending officials to attend the event.
NHK added that officials are weighing the recent moves by Washington and other countries, “and the fact that China sent the head of the General Administration of Sport to the 2020 Tokyo Games as the head of its team”.
Japan is a close ally of the US in the Asia Pacific.
On Monday, the US announced a diplomatic boycott citing China’s “egregious” rights abuses, a move the Chinese government has said would be met with “resolute countermeasures”.
Among other reasons, the White House cited Beijing’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in its western Xinjiang region in justifying the boycott.
The US-China relationship has been strained in recent years over issues including Taiwan, Hong Kong and China’s treatment of Uighurs, even as Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed their close ties during a virtual call last month.
China rejects international criticism and sanctions over the situation in Xinjiang, where the United Nations and rights groups believe at least one million Uighurs and members of other mostly Muslim minorities have been imprisoned.