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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.

Join the discussion

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JepWolf February 22 2014 at 1:17 AM

I like this guy I read all his books about peace. I just wish the world would do that same?

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testakel February 22 2014 at 6:06 AM

"all we are saying is give peace a chance"

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stooge4 February 22 2014 at 12:20 PM

I don't care who the President is. Don't let a foreign country dictate who we can let visit the White House. The Dalai Lama is a very good and religous man.Gee people get a grip.

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1 reply
BARRY AND KATHY stooge4 February 22 2014 at 3:18 PM

Being very good AND religious are not especially the same.

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1 reply
nanamalynn BARRY AND KATHY February 22 2014 at 3:49 PM

Nobody said they were the same thing - the Dalai Lama is good, kind, religious, funny and thoroughly delightful. What is your problem with all that?

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bnevrgivup February 22 2014 at 7:27 AM

It is amazing that a 79 year old Tibetan Monk who is the Dali Lama, religious leader of the Country of Tibet, however who has been in exile for 55 years, has never again set a foot in his country of origin is feared by the Chinese Communist government that represents 1.3 Billion people. Still, even today despite those 55 years of absence and Chinese occupation, Tibetans still see the Dali Lama as their soverign leader and maintain their religious culture despite an equal number of years, of brutal supression! Such resistance and fear displayed by China of such a humble representative, renouncing power and underscoring what is best within the heart of the Human Condition, peace and quiet eternal love!

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1 reply
Sterling Lieb bnevrgivup February 22 2014 at 8:43 AM

Hmmm, one represents peace, love and tolerance. The other represents aggression . Who will the world love in the name of money? Jesus was crucified for 40 pieces of silver and He is the Son of God. He'll be back to set things straight.

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hokanut February 22 2014 at 12:16 PM

I'm no fan of Obama but in this case he showed backbone and invited the Dalai Lama, a true man of peace to our White House despite what China wanted. Good job Mr. President!

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rwitchwoman63 February 22 2014 at 8:20 AM

My question is why should the Chinese Government fear the Dalai Lama so much?...He is a respected and loved religious icon for all people....The only reason I can see that they fear the US talking with him is because their own country is not religiously correct....Seems to me that Obama inviting the Dalai Lama to the US is a great thing, he is a light of peace and love in a time when there is very little of that anywhere!!!!

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SANDY February 22 2014 at 10:38 AM

Geez, is that a threat to cut off the junk and hazardous food stuffs they export to America?

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1 reply
rowbear13 SANDY February 22 2014 at 11:28 AM

What do you think would happen if they refused to lend the USA more money or demand their money back, we would be bankrupt. Good for Obama to refuse to let China say who we can talk too.

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kgillman080 February 22 2014 at 10:10 AM

Maybe Obama will ask him which tires he should buy for his bullet proof limo.

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poppy3590 February 22 2014 at 9:07 AM

Has no one caught the very first line in this article? "President Barack Obama 'GRANTED AN AUDIENCE'..." What kind of writing is that? This is the United States of America, and we do NOT have a king! Accurate reporting would have been "President Barack Obama 'hosted a meeting'... None of our presidents have ever been our king. Now before all ya'll attack me here, let me say that I've not ignored the entire article and do realize the significance of the meeting (not the 'granted audience'). Personally, I'm surprised that the Dalai Lama would even want to meet with Mr. Obama. Maybe it was simply to gain media attention and to anger China. Then again, he stands for world peace. Well, a man can't be heard without media attention, even the Dalai Lama. I'm really not educated in politics so I've nothing remotely educated to say on this whole matter. All I know is that our White House is not a palace, we citizens are not subjects and no United States President has never been nor ever will be a king. "We" do not 'grant audiences'. We host meetings.

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4 replies
fernandezarthr February 22 2014 at 10:09 AM

.....To Hell with the Chinese Communist,.....lets pay the Bastards what we owe them,.....pull back All of our Factories OUT of Communist China,........and let the Bastards starve to death,............let them eat all the weapons they are storing for the take-over of the World!!!,..............

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