- US President Biden has said he is considering a boycott, under which US athletes would still compete
- China accused US politicians of grandstanding over the issue of not sending dignitaries to the event
- Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said such move would be an outright political provocation
China on Monday threatened to take "firm countermeasures'' if the US proceeds with a diplomatic boycott of February's Beijing Winter Olympic Games.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused US politicians of grandstanding over the issue of not sending dignitaries to attend the events that China hopes will showcase its economic development and technological prowess.
Speaking to reporters at a daily briefing, Zhao said such a move would be an "outright political provocation," but gave no details on how China would retaliate.
US President Joe Biden has said he is considering a boycott, under which American athletes would still compete, and an announcement is expected this week.
Supporters of such a step cite China's poor record on human rights as justification, saying China is using the games to whitewash its ill treatment of civil rights activists, political dissidents and ethnic minorities.
"Without being invited, American politicians keep hyping the so-called diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympic, which is purely wishful thinking and grandstanding," Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.
"If the U.S. side is bent on going its own way, China will take firm countermeasures," Zhao said.
The possibility of a diplomatic boycott comes as the U.S. attempts to stabilise turbulent relations with Beijing, even as it maintains a tough approach toward trade frictions and conflicts over China's actions on Taiwan, human rights, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.
Beijing has mounted a stiff response to all U.S. criticisms, denouncing them as interference in its internal affairs and slapping visa bans on American politicians it regards as anti-China.
It wasn't clear who the U.S. might have sent to Beijing for the games and Zhao's comments appeared to indicate that China has not extended any invitations.
Asked about reports that Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia is "considering" taking actions against the winter games, Zhao reiterated that the games is a stage for athletes not politicians.
"As to those politicians who hyped the boycott for political purpose and grandstanding, whether they come or not, no one would care, nor would it have any impact on the Beijing Winter Olympic Games," Zhao added.