Dalai Lama in US for Obama meeting despite Chinese warning

U.S. President Barack Obama will host the Dalai Lama at the White House on Thursday despite China's warning.

Dalai Lama in US for Obama meeting despite Chinese warning

U.S. President Barack Obama will host the Dalai Lama at the White House on Thursday despite China's warning that the meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader could further damage strained ties.

Obama's first presidential meeting with the Dalai Lama is sure to draw angry complaints from Beijing, which is increasingly at odds with Washington over trade, currencies, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and Internet censorship.

With the two giant economies so deeply intertwined, tensions are considered unlikely to escalate into outright confrontation. The White House expects only limited fallout.

"Chinese officials have known about this and their reaction is their reaction," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said dismissively on the eve of the Dalai Lama's visit.

Although admired by millions around the world as a man of peace, the Dalai Lama is accused by Beijing of being a dangerous separatist who foments unrest in Tibet.

Gibbs insisted the United States and China -- the world's largest and third-biggest economies -- have a "mature relationship" capable of withstanding disagreements.

But mindful of Chinese sensitivities, the White House has sought to strike a balance in the Dalai Lama's visit. It comes on the heels of a U.S. plan to sell $6.4 billion of weapons to Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.

Seeking to avoid alienating Beijing, Obama had delayed meeting the Dalai Lama until after first seeing Chinese leaders during his Asia trip last year, a snub that drew criticism from U.S. lawmakers and human rights groups.

During Thursday's visit, Obama will not appear in public with the Dalai Lama and -- like his White House predecessors -- will deny him the symbolism of meeting in the Oval Office. Such distinctions will signal to Beijing that the Tibetan monk is not being received as a political leader.

Zhu Weiqun, a vice minister of the United Front Work Department of China's ruling Communist Party, warned earlier this month that an Obama meeting with the Dalai Lama "would damage trust and cooperation between our two countries." The Obama administration ignored China's call to scrap the talks.

While China has threatened to impose sanctions against U.S. companies and curtail military-to-military contacts over the Taiwan arms sale, Washington expects the response to the Dalai Lama visit to be less threatening.

"There is no reason why the reaction this time should be very different from what it's been in the past, which has been they criticize it and then we move on with other aspects of the relationship," a senior administration official said.

Reuters

Last Mod: 18 Şubat 2010, 23:33
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