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Obama, Dalai Lama Meet At White House: Will It Damage Bilateral Ties With China?

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President Barack Obama on June 15 spoke to the Dalai Lama in a private meeting at the White House despite receiving a warning from China not to proceed.

Earlier this week, a Chinese spokesperson warned that any meeting between Obama and the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader would damage cooperation, mutual trust and bilateral ties between China and the United States.

According to The New York Times, Beijing regularly pressures world leaders not to meet with the Dalai Lama, accusing him of sponsoring a separatist movement that seeks Tibet's independence from the East Asian country.

"Personal Nature"

The private meeting was Obama's fourth with the Dalai Lama, who resigned from his political role as leader of the Tibetan government, but remained the head of Tibetan Buddhists.

The meeting occurred at a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and China over Beijing's assertion of territorial claims in the East.

Obama and the Dalai Lama's meetings were typically held in the residence of the executive mansion instead of the Oval office in the eight years that Obama was president.

Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, says the location of the meeting emphasized its "personal nature."

Earnest said Obama and the Dalai Lama were to discuss a wide range of issues, such as human rights, but declined to disclose further details about it.

According to Reuters, Obama had urged "meaningful and direct dialogue" between the Dalai Lama and his representatives with Chinese officials in order to resolve differences and lower tension.

After the meeting, the Dalai Lama expressed his condolences for the terror attack that happened on June 12, Earnest said.

Objections From China

Before Obama and the Dalai Lama's meeting, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson sharply slammed any resolution that could legitimize the claims that Tibet should become free from China.

Speaking at a press briefing, Minister Lu Kang said the U.S. made solemn commitments and had acknowledged that there is one China.

He accused the Dalai Lama of peddling his political ambitions under the cloak of religion, and then asked countries not to give the spiritual leader any room to carry out the campaign, at the risk of "arousing" the strong opposition of 1.3 billion Chinese citizens.

Still, the White House said Obama does not support Tibetan Independence.

In fact, the meeting with the Dalai Lama did nothing to change official U.S. policy, Earnest said.

"Tibet, per U.S. policy, is considered part of the People's Republic of China," the press secretary said, adding that Obama does have a personal affection for the Dalai Lama and his spiritual teachings.

Photo: Christopher Michel | Flickr

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