China urges US to cancel Obama-Dalai Lama meeting

China urged the United States on Friday to scrap plans for President Barack Obama to meet the Dalai Lama next week.

China urges US to cancel Obama-Dalai Lama meeting

China urged the United States on Friday to scrap plans for President Barack Obama to meet the Dalai Lama next week, the latest source of friction in already strained Sino-U.S. relations.

The White House had said on Thursday that Obama would meet the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader on Feb. 18, despite China's repeated warnings that such talks would hurt ties.

"China firmly opposes the Dalai Lama visiting the United States and U.S. leaders' contacting with him," a report from the official Xinhua news agency cited foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu as saying.

Tensions with Washington have arisen over issues from trade to currencies to the U.S. plan to sell $6.4 billion of weapons to Taiwan, the island that China treats as an illegitimate breakaway province.

China vowed last week to impose "unspecified sanctions" against U.S. companies selling arms to Taiwan and curtail military-to-military contacts.

Senior Chinese military officers have proposed that their country boost defence spending and possibly sell some U.S. bonds to punish Washington for its latest round of proposed arms sales to Taiwan.

Despite that, U.S. officials said on Thursday that Beijing had cleared a U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, to visit Hong Kong next week, an apparent concession from China.

Against that backdrop, the long-planned meeting with Dalai Lama has further stoked Beijing's ire. It regards the spiritual leader as a dangerous separatist responsible for fomenting unrest in Tibet.

"We urge the U.S. side to fully understand the high sensitivity of Tibet-related issues, honour its commitment to recognising Tibet as part of China and opposing 'Tibet independence'," Ma said.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had earlier made clear the United States would shrug off China's opposition.

"The Dalai Lama is an internationally respected religious leader and spokesman for Tibetan rights, and the president looks forward to an engaging and constructive dialogue," he said.

Mindful of Chinese sensibilities, Obama had held off meeting the Dalai Lama until after the president first saw Chinese leaders during a trip to Asia in November.

Strains over the Dalai Lama and other issues have raised worries that China might retaliate by obstructing U.S. efforts in other areas, such as imposing tougher sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.

But Gibbs insisted the relationship between the United States and China -- the world's largest and third-biggest economies -- is "mature enough" to find common ground on issues of mutual interest despite disagreements on other topics.

He said Obama, for example, has not been shy about talking to the Chinese about U.S. concerns over their currency, which Washington sees as undervalued, and Internet freedom.

"We know that two countries aren't going to agree on everything," Gibbs said.

Adding to tensions, Obama vowed last week to address currency problems with Beijing and to "get much tougher" with it on trade to ensure U.S. goods do not face a competitive disadvantage.

China is the single biggest holder of U.S. Treasuries, owning at least $776.4 billion of U.S. government debt at the end of June 2009, according to statistics from Washington.


Reuters

Last Mod: 12 Şubat 2010, 12:25
Add Comment