Obama-Dalai meet angers China

By Yang Jingjie Source:Global Times Published: 2014-2-22 0:43:01

US President Barack Obama on Friday met the Dalai Lama in the White House, despite an earlier warning of impaired ties by China that urged him to cancel the meeting.

The meeting took place in the Map Room on the ground floor of the president's residence and not the Oval Office, which Obama usually uses to meet foreign leaders and visiting dignitaries.

Earlier on Thursday, US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden announced that Obama would meet the Dalai Lama "in his capacity as an internationally respected religious and cultural leader."

Hayden also emphasized that the US supported the Dalai Lama's approach but recognized Tibet to be "a part of the People's Republic of China."

"We do not support Tibetan independence," Hayden said.

China's foreign ministry on Friday made a swift reaction to the announcement by putting a statement on its website.

Hua Chunying, the ministry's spokeswoman, said in the statement that China is "deeply concerned" and has lodged solemn representations with the US side.

"We must point out that Tibet-related affairs fall entirely within the internal affairs of China which allow no foreign interference," Hua said, noting the Dalai Lama is a political exile who has long been engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion.

"We urge the US to take China's concerns seriously, immediately cancel the meeting, and not to provide facilitation and platform for the Dalai Lama to carry out anti-China separatist activities in the US," she said.

It was the third meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama since Obama became president in 2009. The two previous meetings, in 2010 and 2011 respectively, also took place in the Map Room, which is of less significance than the Oval Office.

Niu Xinchun, a research fellow with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that the meetings with the Dalai Lama were a "values-based approach" to pander to the domestic audience.

However, Obama is well aware that such meetings are contradictory to the interests of Sino-US relations, and therefore had to walk a fine line to try to minimize the impact, Niu said, referring to the timing and venue for the meetings.

"In the near term, there are no visits between the US and Chinese leaders, so that explains why Obama chose to meet the Dalai Lama now," he said.

Although the White House tried to keep the meeting relatively low-profile, China expressed firm opposition. Hua said arranging such a meeting was a "gross interference in the internal affairs of China," and it would "severely impair China-US relations."

The Xinhua News Agency said on Friday the Obama-Dalai Lama meeting will send the wrong message to Tibetan secessionists and encourage them to resort to extremist moves that contradict the very human rights Washington claims to defend.

China has long opposed foreign dignitaries meeting with the Dalai Lama, who fled to India and created the self-declared "Tibetan government in exile" in 1959.

Previously, France, Germany and Britain had all seen slumps in their ties with China as a result of their leaders' meetings with the Dalai Lama, which led to temporary suspension of leaders' summits.

However, Washington and Beijing share a more significant and complicated relationship, which is defined by a wide range of factors, Niu said.

While the two countries have disputes over an array of issues including recent rows in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, they are increasingly inter-dependent and have to cooperate on international issues such as Iran and North Korea. China is also the US' biggest foreign creditor.

It is still not clear whether the Obama-Dalai Lama meeting will overshadow an expected meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Obama on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in the Netherlands next month.

While noting the Dalai Lama meeting will definitely undermine mutual trust, Niu said, "A single incident could hardly shake the foundations of the Sino-US relationship."

China and the US are seeking to build a new type of relations between major powers, based on principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and cooperation.

Agencies contributed to this story

Posted in: Diplomacy

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