Obama meets Dalai Lama at White House despite Chinese objections


On Thursday, the Dalai Lama attended an event at the American Enterprise Institute on "Unlocking the Mind and Human Happiness.” (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

China demanded that President 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, Obama met with 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. Obama last met the Dalai Lama in July 2011.

Each meeting has drawn severe criticism from China, which considers the Dalai Lama an anti-
China separatist.

“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.”

[READ: China is angry. But the U.S. shouldn’t worry.]

In a news release about the meeting, the White House said 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 Obama “expressed support for the Dalai Lama’s ‘Middle Way’ approach” of seeking neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans. Obama encouraged “direct dialogue to resolve long-standing differences” between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government, while restating the U.S. position that Tibet is part of China and 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 of the meeting said.

On Thursday, the White House played down the political aspect of the visit. “We will continue to urge the Chinese government to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions, as a means to reduce tensions,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden 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.

China has a long history of angry reactions to foreign leaders’ meetings with the Dalai Lama. Among its more dramatic responses, China curtailed some diplomatic ties with Britain in 2012 after Prime Minister David Cameron met the Dalai Lama.

But regarding the United States, China has not followed through with measures as strong.

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

The announcement came amid a visit to Beijing by Gen. Ray Odierno, the U.S. Army chief of staff.

“I have a very positive opinion on our future relationship as we develop the army dialogue,” Odierno told Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, according to the Associated Press.

Among the issues the two military leaders hope to discuss is increased educational exchanges and cooperation in peacekeeping.

Wan reported from Beijing.

William Wan is The Post’s China correspondent based in Beijing. He served previously as a religion reporter and diplomatic correspondent.
William Branigin writes and edits breaking news. He previously was a reporter on the Post’s national and local staffs and spent 19 years overseas, reporting in Southeast Asia, Central America, the Middle East and Europe.
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