TOKYO (AP) _ A Soviet opera singer who won an international contest in Tokyo earlier this month has defected and is asking for political asylum, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said Friday.

Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Polozov, 36, told Japanese authorities he did not want to return to the Soviet Union, according to an of the Foreign Ministry's Soviet Affairs Division.

The official, who refused to be identified, would not say when Polozov defected, which country he hopes to go to or where he is now. Japan's policy is not to accept defectors but to allow them to proceed to third countries.

The Japan Broadcasting Corp. reported that Polozov wanted to go to the United States.

Polozov beat 68 other singers from 14 countries in the fifth Madame Butterfly competition, which began May 15. He failed to show up at a reception for contest participants on Wednesday, NHK said.

Kyodo News Service said Polozov sought asylum with Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department on Wednesday and remains under police protection.

A police official refused to comment on the report and referred queries to the Foreign Ministry.

Other Soviet performing artists have sought asylum while in Japan.

A Soviet ballet dancer defected while on tour in Japan in 1984. Moscow Indoor Ballet Troupe member Yuri V. Alyeshin, then 26, asked for political asylum at the U.S. consulate in Sapporo in northern Japan. Japanese and U.S. officials, however, refuse to say where Alyeshin went.

In 1980, Soviet ballet instructor Soulamif Kikhailovno Messerer and her son, Mikhail Messerer, defected during a tour of Japan by the Bolshoi Ballet. They were allowed to go to the United States.