Obama, Dalai Lama meet despite Chinese objections

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BEIJING -- China demanded that President Barack Obama cancel a meeting Friday with the Dalai Lama, but it went ahead as scheduled at the White House, albeit in low-key fashion.

Ignoring Beijing's warning that the meeting would severely harm U.S.-China relations, Mr. Obama met the Tibetan spiritual leader in the Map Room of the White House. It was the president's third such meeting with the Dalai Lama and the first of his second term.

Each meeting has drawn severe criticism from China. "The Dalai Lama is a political exile who has long been engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday in a statement before the White House meeting. "By arranging a meeting between the president and the Dalai Lama, the U.S. side will grossly interfere in the internal affairs of China, seriously violate norms governing international relations and severely impair China-U.S. relations."

In a news release about the meeting, the White House said Mr. Obama "reiterated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People's Republic of China."

It said Mr. Obama "expressed support for the Dalai Lama's 'Middle Way' approach" of seeking neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans. Mr. Obama encouraged "direct dialogue to resolve long-standing differences" between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government, while restating that "the United States does not support Tibet independence," the White House news release said.

"The Dalai Lama stated that he is not seeking independence for Tibet and hopes that dialogue between his representatives and the Chinese government will resume," the summary said.

The White House did not officially announce the meeting with the Dalai Lama until late Thursday. The exiled Buddhist monk, a 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner, is visiting the United States on a speaking tour.

Hours after China issued its demands for Mr. Obama to call off the meeting Friday, U.S. and Chinese military leaders announced separately that they planned to establish regular dialogue between their armies.

The announcement came during a Beijing visit by Gen. Ray Odierno, the U.S. Army chief of staff. The two military leaders hope to discuss increased educational exchanges and peacekeeping cooperation.


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