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Ignoring China's protest, Obama hosts Dalai Lama

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama granted an audience to Tibet's Dalai Lama on Friday over the strong objections from China that the U.S. was meddling it its affairs. The White House took pains to ensure the meeting was not portrayed as a conference of two heads of state.

Obama played host to his fellow Nobel laureate in the White House's Map Room rather than the Oval Office, where the president traditionally brings dignitaries for photos. Beijing decries the Dalai Lama as an anti-Chinese separatist because of his quest for greater Tibetan autonomy. The White House calls him a respected cultural and religious figure who is committed to peace.

Despite media requests, the meeting was closed to journalists, and in a departure from previous visits the Buddhist monk left the White House without speaking to reporters.

Beijing had protested the meeting after the White House announced it Thursday night. A statement from China's Foreign Ministry issued Friday night reiterated its view that no country has a right to interfere in its internal affairs and said the U.S. had "gravely violated basic norms governing the international relations and seriously harmed the Sino-U.S. relations."

In another sign of its displeasure, China summoned Daniel Kritenbrink, the charge d'affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, the State Department said. The U.S. had no immediate comment on the development.

Beijing frequently protests meetings with the Dalai Lama, and the dust-ups have become something of a diplomatic ritual for Obama, who faced Beijing's ire when he met with the Tibetan leader in 2010 and again in 2011. In his first year in office, Obama put off a meeting with the monk in what was seen as a move to placate China.

How much does it matter?

"I have severe doubts that the Chinese would proceed to do anything in response or retaliation that would undermine much larger Chinese interests" with the U.S., said Jonathan Pollack, a China scholar at the private Brookings Institution.

In a carefully worded statement after the meeting, the White House said Obama offered his "strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions" and for human rights protections for Tibetans in China. The statement said Obama "reiterated the U.S. position that Tibet is part of the People's Republic of China and that the United States does not support Tibet independence."

The Dalai Lama told Obama he's not seeking Tibetan independence, and both leaders said they hoped talks would resume between Beijing and the Dalai Lama's representatives.

The Dalai Lama gave up his political role as the leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile in 2011. The White House said Obama supports the Dalai Lama's approach of "neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans." But Chinese officials denounce him as a separatist responsible for instigating self-immolations inside China.

Although the meeting was unlikely to have a major long-term impact on U.S.-China relations, it could contribute to a "souring mood" between the world's two largest economies, said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Relations between the U.S. and China are already on edge over Beijing's steps to assert itself in the region. China has bristled at recent U.S. comments critical of its actions in territorial disputes with its smaller neighbors.

White House spokesman Jay Carney wouldn't say whether the U.S. was downplaying the meeting to avoid upsetting the Chinese, nor whether the U.S. gave China advance notice before announcing the visit.

"We are committed to a constructive relationship with China," he said.

A frequent visitor to the U.S., the Dalai Lama has lived in exile in northern India since fleeing China in 1959. His meeting with Obama came near the start of a three-week speaking tour focused more on spiritual fulfillment, business ethics and violence than on Tibetan issues.

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Lois February 22 2014 at 3:45 PM

Good for Obasma..China gets enough money from us..!!

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gbelter777 February 22 2014 at 3:31 PM

I don't blame China.

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1 reply to gbelter777's comment
nanamalynn February 22 2014 at 4:22 PM

Why not? Dalai Lama is a peaceful person - China is an agressive nation - Why do you not blame China, the country who is determined to keep Tibet under their thumb and would destroy the peaceful Dalai Lama in even this stupid circumstance? Just curious as to why 'You don't blame China'?

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DenaliMan February 22 2014 at 3:19 PM

The president "granted an audience"??? Sounds rather like a monarch or religious leader thing to me. "His Ho;iness Barack 1 granted an audience to ...." LOL

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nanamalynn February 22 2014 at 3:44 PM

That was exactly my reaction.................'Met with' would have sufficed nicely.

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BARRY AND KATHY February 22 2014 at 3:07 PM

Just shows the stupidity of the leaders of some countries. You would be hard pressed to find even ONE person in China who gives a damn about this meeting other than the leaders who are protesting. Everyone trying to make something out of nothing in order to get an advantage in some way now or in later negotiations. If we accept that they are truly offended, they can try to get us to make up for it.
All for a phony, contrived offense.

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itchy1958 February 22 2014 at 1:10 PM

obama offered his strong support for Tibets unique religious , cultural and linguistic traditions.
What a shame that he doesnt feel the same way about his own country.

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BARRY AND KATHY February 22 2014 at 3:08 PM

What a shame you were born without a brain.

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itchy1958 February 22 2014 at 5:07 PM

WOW! It looks like you hate other Americans with a different opinion as much as your puppet king does. Dont worry, maybe someday you and all the other libs will evole and become mature enough to have adult talks about issues without all the slander and name calling tactics.

Wait a minute, who am I kidding besides myself. That is what your kind do best, ignoring the facts and jumping on the slander bandwagon is about all you people are good for.

Knowing the difference between right and wrong, common sense, wisdom, and maturity, are all foriegn entities where your thoughts reside.

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fcruzinsa February 22 2014 at 1:07 PM

PS - U.S. politics are so corrupt that no one knows what their up to by this meeting.

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1 reply to fcruzinsa's comment
max13722 February 22 2014 at 3:53 PM


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fcruzinsa February 22 2014 at 1:05 PM

Screw China. If they don't like it they can boycott us by stopping all Chinese made products from being exported to the U.S. I am so gamed for that!

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nanamalynn February 22 2014 at 3:46 PM

OR we can all do what I have been doing for years (eversince China decided to eradicate 'Burma' - boycott anything from China. How about we all buy American made products?

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CMOOSEMEAT February 22 2014 at 12:39 PM

So how does this work? You have a man of peace the Dalai Lama who is meeting the anti-Christ O'bama. Who will win? Hopefully the man of peace.

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BARRY AND KATHY February 22 2014 at 3:15 PM

I'm confused as to what would be wrong about NOT believing in Christ when He is obviously not the Son of God people say he is. so you're blaming Obama for being RIGHT and praising the Dalai Lama for being good.
Seems like a perfect match to me.

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rcs2026 February 22 2014 at 12:33 PM

This is so funny the President Obama haters will even side with China over a successful black man.

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stburhans February 22 2014 at 12:57 PM

You sound like a typical bigot. Is it that important to you that he is Black? Not to me, Obama is just a lousy President.

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BARRY AND KATHY February 22 2014 at 3:17 PM

That would be more believable if it weren't for the fact you hated him from the moment YOUR candidate lost.
He could have been Lincoln and you wouldn't have liked him.

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harriet1947 February 22 2014 at 12:29 PM

Just makes China look bad to beat up on the Dalai Lama--God is using him in this world to show compassion and promote peace. Thanks President Obama!

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