China demands US halt Olympics 'interference'

A man wearing a hat baring an American flag and face mask to help protect from the coronavirus walks by a masked security guard near lanterns decoration on the remnants of a city wall in Beijing, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. China is demanding the U.S. end “interference” in the Beijing Winter Olympics, which begin next month, in an apparent reference to a diplomatic boycott imposed by Washington and its allies. The Foreign Ministry said Minister Wang Yi made the demand in a phone call with U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday Beijing time. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
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BEIJING (AP) — China is demanding the U.S. end “interference” in the Beijing Winter Olympics, which begin next week, in an apparent reference to a diplomatic boycott imposed by Washington and some of its allies.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the demand in a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday Beijing time, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The U.S. has said it will not send dignitaries to the Games, which open Feb. 4, in a protest over China’s detention of more than 1 million Uyghur Muslims in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, along with crackdowns on human rights elsewhere in the country.

The boycott does not prevent U.S. athletes from taking part in the Games, which are being held under strict anti-pandemic rules. China has also protested what it says are calls within the State Department to withdraw staff and their dependents from the embassy and consulates around China over the tightening restrictions.

According to a news release posted on the ministry’s website Thursday, Wang also called for an end to U.S. support for self-governing Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory.

China’s growing assertiveness directed at the U.S. has extended as far as relations with Central American nations and as close as Beijing’s maritime claims in the South and East China Seas.

At a monthly briefing Thursday, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian responded to a question about U.S. military movements in the Asia-Pacific region by saying China's armed forces were “fully prepared to deal with any foreign provocations or emergency situations" that arise during the Olympics.

The U.S. says it doesn't recognize most of China's claims in the strategically crucial South China Sea and routinely sails warships and flies planes near Chinese-held islands.

Foreign Minister Wang also complained that the administration of President Joe Biden has maintained tough political and economic policies enacted earlier despite its expressed wishes for a less confrontational relationship.

“The U.S. continuously puts forward wrong words and actions toward China, causing new conflicts in relations between the two countries," Wang was quoted as saying.

A brief statement from the State Department said that Blinken and Wang exchanged views on how to manage strategic risk, health security and climate change. It did not mention the Olympics or Taiwan. Blinken underscored the economic and security risks posed by Russian aggression against Ukraine, the statement said.

The phone call follows the appointment of veteran diplomat Nicholas Burns as the new U.S. ambassador to China, a position that has remained empty for more than a year.

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