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SYDNEY: South Korea’s president on Monday ruled out joining a US diplomatic boycott of February’s Beijing Winter Olympics, citing the need to work with China. Visiting Canberra, Moon Jae-in said he was “not considering” snubbing the Olympics to protest China’s human rights abuses, as several Western nations have done.

“We have not received a request from any other country including the United States to participate in the diplomatic boycott,” he said. China has warned the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada that they will “pay the price”.

The boycott was prompted by China’s abuses against the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang and its smothering of democracy in Hong Kong. Moon stressed that South Korea wanted to promote a free and open Pacific region, but also had to consider China’s role in trying to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula.

“We need the constructive efforts of China to enable denuclearisation of DPRK (North Korea)” he said, adding that South Korea wanted a harmonious relationship with China.

Beijing welcomed the comments.

Seoul’s position on the Olympics “is a demonstration of the friendship between China and South Korea”, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said. Beijing is “willing to make common efforts with the South Korean side to push for a political resolution” on the Korean Peninsula, he added.

Moon is currently on a three-day state visit to Australia, where the two countries signed a series of technology and military cooperation agreements. They include the sale of 30 howitzers — mobile artillery guns — to Australia as part of a contract worth around US$720 million.

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