Obama meets Dalai, defies China's warning about impact on ties

Obama meets Dalai, defies China's warning about impact on ties

 US President Barack Obama today met Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama for the third time at the White House, brushing aside China's warning that unjustified interference in its domestic affairs will cause "great damage" to bilateral ties.

The meeting took place in the Map Room of the White House -- Obama's residence -- and not in his Oval Office, where the President usually holds talks with visiting dignitaries.The meeting was closed to the press and the Dalai Lama left the White House without interacting with journalists.

The White House said Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama was in his capacity as an international religious and cultural leader and in the tradition of previous meetings with him. The White House' announcement of their meeting yesterday drew a sharp reaction from China, which has long opposed foreign dignitaries meeting the 78-year-old Dalai Lama who fled to India in 1959.

"The United States supports the Dalai Lama's 'Middle Way' approach of neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans in China," said Caitlyn Hayden, spokesperson of the US National Security Council.

The US recognises Tibet to be a part of China, Hayden said. "We do not support Tibetan independence," she said, stressing that the US strongly supports human rights and religious freedom in China.

"We are concerned about continuing tensions and the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China. 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."

Obama and the Dalai Lama - both Nobel Peace Prize laureates - have met twice before in 2010 and 2011, drawing similar protests from China.

Hours before the meeting, China demanded its immediate cancellation, warning that the unjustified interference in its domestic affairs will cause "great damage" to bilateral ties."We urge the United States to take China's concerns seriously and not to facilitate or offer occasion for the Dalai Lama to conduct anti-China secessionist moves," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.

"China is greatly concerned about the meeting, and has lodged solemn representations to the US side," Hua said.

The Tibetan issue is a domestic affair for China and there is no other country which has the right to interfere, she said.

The arranged meeting is an unjustified interference with China's domestic affairs and a serious violation of the principles of international relations, and will cause great damage to China-US relations, Hua warned.

Hua said China is firmly opposed to any foreign leaders meeting the Dalai Lama."I also want to stress that any country if it is bent on China's interests then it will find that its own interests can get hurt in the very end. Therefore we urge the US government to immediately cancel the relevant meeting so as to avoid damaging China-US relations," she said.

Asked whether the meeting would adversely impact on the likely meeting between Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Nuclear Disarmament meeting next month, Hua said it is a hypothetical question.

"US President can decide whom he will meet but he cannot meet the Dalai Lama because he is not a pure religious figure," she said when asked why Obama cannot decide whom to meet or not.

"The Dalai Lama is a political figure in exile who is undertaking anti-China separatist activities in the name of religion," she said.

Hua also questioned the Dalai Lama's assertion that he would like Tibet to be part of China and all he wanted was autonomy.

"His so-called middle way proposal should be studied. Actually this middle way proposal is political platform for the realisation of Tibet independence in a step by step manner," she said.

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