U.S. President Barack Obama still plans to meet the Dalai Lama, the White House said on Tuesday, despite China's warning that such a meeting would hurt ties already strained by U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan.
Digging in on two points of discord with the United States, China vowed to impose unspecified sanctions against U.S. firms selling arms to Taiwan and said any meeting between Obama and the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader would hurt bilateral ties.
The White House shrugged off Beijing's warning.
"The president told China's leaders during his trip last year that he would meet with the Dalai Lama and he intends to do so," White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters.
"We expect that our relationship with China is mature enough where we can work on areas of mutual concern such as climate, the global economy and non-proliferation and discuss frankly and candidly those areas where we disagree," he told reporters traveling with Obama to New Hampshire.
China has become increasingly vocal in opposing meetings between the Dalai Lama and foreign leaders, and one between the Tibetan leader and Obama would increase tensions between the world's biggest and third-biggest economies.
There had been expectations that Obama would meet the Dalai Lama as early as this month, when the Tibetan leader visits the United States. The White House has not announced a schedule.
Zhu Weiqun, a Vice Minister of the United Front Work Department of China's ruling Communist Party, said China would vehemently oppose any meeting between Obama and the Buddhist monk, who Beijing deems a dangerous separatist.
"If that comes to pass, then China will be strongly opposed as always," Zhu, who's department steers party policy over ethnic issues, said of the possible meeting.
"If the U.S. leader chooses this time to meet the Dalai Lama, that would damage trust and cooperation between our two countries, and how would that help the United States surmount the current economic crisis?" said Zhu.
China routinely opposes meetings between the Dalai Lama and foreign leaders, especially after violent unrest spread across Tibetan areas in March 2008. Beijing blamed his "clique" for the turmoil, a charge he repeatedly rejected.
Previous U.S. presidents, including Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, have met the Dalai Lama, drawing angry words from Beijing but no substantive reprisals.
But when French President Nicolas Sarkozy would not pull out of meeting the Dalai Lama while his country held the rotating presidency of the European Union in late 2008, China hit back by canceling a summit with the EU.
The Dalai Lama has said he wants a high level of genuine autonomy for his homeland, which he fled in 1959. China says that his demands amount to calling for outright independence.
China recently hosted talks with envoys of the Dalai Lama, but those talks achieved little.
The United States says it accepts Tibet is a part of China, but wants Beijing to sit down with the Dalai Lama to address their differences over the region's future.
ReutersLast Mod: 03 Şubat 2010, 15:01