President Biden said that he is considering a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year.
Asked Thursday during an Oval Office meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau whether a boycott of the 2022 Games was on the table, Biden said that it was “something we are considering.”
The comments come a day after it was reported that Biden did not expect to attend the Olympics himself and that a diplomatic boycott could be in the works, though the president was yet to sign off on one.
A diplomatic boycott would mean that the U.S. would not send an official government delegation to the Games, though U.S. athletes would still be allowed to compete.
During Thursday’s White House press briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the potential for a diplomatic boycott of the Games and whether that meant the president’s meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping were not productive.
“They didn’t talk about the Olympics during the meeting. It wasn’t a topic that was discussed during the meeting,” Psaki responded. “I would note that we’ve said from the beginning, the beginning of this administration, as it relates to how we engage with China, that we see it through the prism of competition, not conflict. That is our objective that the president is going to raise issues where he has concern and he’s going to look for areas to work together.”
Calls have mounted in recent months for the administration to boycott the Games in response to China’s record on human rights, with some calling for a complete boycott of the event that would include U.S. athletes.
“I call on the Biden Administration to mount a complete and total boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics — no athletes, no administration officials, no corporate sponsors,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Wednesday.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, have called for at least a diplomatic boycott of the Games, an action the president has now signaled he is open to.
But a diplomatic boycott would fall short according to Cotton, who has argued that athletes could face security issues that would include “ubiquitous surveillance” of bathroom facilities and their electronic devices.
“We should boycott these games because of China’s crimes against the United States and the civilized world and its own people,” Cotton said, pointing to China’s treatment of its minority Uyghur population.