Obama holds meeting with Dalai Lama
White House encounter provokes sharp rebuke from the Chinese government
China urged the US to cancel today’s planned meeting between US President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama at the White House. The meeting would cause ‘serious damage’ to ties between the two countries and amount to interference in China’s domestic affairs, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. Photograph: Christopher Jue/EPA
President Barack Obama met with the Dalai Lama at the White House today, provoking a sharp rebuke from the Chinese government. But this time, in contrast to past meetings, the Obama administration seemed unruffled by the diplomatic repercussions of the visit, which comes at a time when the United States is taking a firmer line with China on territorial disputes.
Mr Obama met with the Dalai Lama in the Map Room, not the Oval Office - a token concession to the Chinese, who view the Tibetan spiritual leader as an anti-China separatist. But that did not prevent the Chinese foreign ministry from demanding that Mr Obama cancel the meeting.
“By arranging a meeting between the president and the Dalai Lama,” said a foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunyung, “the US side will grossly interfere in the internal affairs of China, seriously violate norms governing international relations and severely impair China-US relations.”
China used similar language when Mr Obama met with the Dalai Lama in February 2010 and in July 2011. In 2009, the White House delayed Mr Obama’s first meeting as president with him to avoid angering the Chinese a month before the president’s first trip to their country.
This time, Mr Obama does not plan to visit China until the fall. And in April, he is planning a trip to Asia that will take him to four countries - Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia - that all have territorial disputes with China in their coastal waters.
In a statement lastnight, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, Caitlin M Hayden, said, “The United States supports the Dalai Lama’s ‘Middle Way’ approach of neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans in China.”
Ms Hayden reaffirmed US policy, which opposes Tibetan independence and views Tibet as part of China. But she said the administration was troubled by “continuing tensions and the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China.” And she urged the government to resume a dialogue with the Dalai Lama.