Trump calls for China boycott of 2020 Olympics

Story updated Oct. 11 to include Chinese Foreign Ministry comment.

By Joe Sterling and Katia Hetter, CNN

China has issued a threat of “firm countermeasures” after US President Donald Trump called for a boycott of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Trump said Tuesday during a speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam that he believes Beijing should not host the games, and that officials would meet over the matter.

The White House confirmed to CNN that Trump is indeed calling for a boycott of the games, despite Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang’s insistence that “the issue is now a Chinese internal affair.”

“The Chinese government will definitely take firm countermeasures in response to America’s selfish actions,” Geng said at a daily press briefing.

Trump won’t say if he supports or supports the talks

But CNN’s Manu Raju, citing White House pool reports, reports that Trump did not explicitly call for the boycott when the pool was with him during his trip to Vietnam.

The White House later said Trump would instead be supportive of US-led talks with Beijing regarding the games.

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said that officials were holding a meeting on the issue and that Beijing was willing to engage in dialogue with Washington.

“When the problem was related to an international organization, China immediately sent a high-level delegation and took remedial action,” the news agency said, citing a White House briefing by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

“The issue of China hosting the games is much bigger than mere sentiment, and a reciprocal confidence-building step will lead to an improvement in political relations.”

Beijing has hosted the games twice: in 2008 and 2016.

Why a boycott makes little sense

Widespread swaths of the US government and the US media have condemned China for its authoritarian and repressive rule in recent months, and they are generally not shy about publicly calling for a boycott of Beijing’s sporting events.

In 2015, numerous conservative outlets and commentators called for a boycott of the Summer Olympics in Rio after a US judge approved the release of a Chinese tech executive as part of an international espionage investigation.

However, calling for a boycott does little to change China’s actions. The US State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, criticisms of the communist government don’t seem to have affected its tourism and other business activities in the US. Beijing hosted a weeklong economic summit in the US this summer and held an important meeting of the International Monetary Fund this month.

Earlier this year, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping oversaw the signing of a trade pact that makes China the first non-European Union economy to have preferential status in the World Trade Organization.

US concerns about China’s behavior extend beyond sports.

Trump has openly complained about Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea and in trade negotiations. He has also signed into law legislation to review Beijing’s military buildup in the Asia-Pacific region.

In July, the US and allies in the Pacific signed a military cooperation pact intended to reassure allies worried about a buildup of Chinese military power in the region.

White House director of national intelligence Dan Coats, said on September 17 that Beijing was likely to continue to be concerned about US military presence in the region.

“I think we have seen in the past year that the Chinese are very focused on where US military forces are and where they can remain for their own purposes. I expect that to be the case,” Coats said in congressional testimony.

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