By Daniel Leussink and David Dolan

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will not send a government delegation to next year’s Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, he said on Friday, a move that falls short of joining a diplomatic boycott of Games led by the United States, but nonetheless likely to escalate tensions with China.

The boycott, pushed by Washington and including some of its allies, has become another delicate issue for Japan, a close partner of the United States that also has strong economic ties with China.

Tokyo will not send a government delegation to the Games, which are due to start in February, Cabinet Secretary-General Hirokazu Matsuno told a press conference.

Instead, it will send officials with direct connections to the Games, including politician Seiko Hashimoto, head of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, as well as heads of national Olympic and Paralympic committees.

Political cartoons about world leaders

The diplomatic boycott by the United States and other countries stems from human rights concerns in China, but Japan has taken a milder tone on the matter.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has faced increasing pressure within his ruling Liberal Democratic Party to take a tougher stance on China, state broadcaster NHK said.

(Reporting by David Dolan and Daniel Leussink; Editing by Michael Perry and Clarence Fernandez)

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