Source AP ©

Dalai Lama to visit Japan

The Dalai Lama is expected to visit Japan this week, organizers said, despite China's protests over other trips overseas by the Tibetan religious leader.

But top government officials are not expected to meet with the 72-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate during his nine-day trip, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The monk was instead slated to attend a Buddhist conference in Yokohama, just west of Tokyo, give a speech at a university in the western city of Ise and visit a high school in the capital, according to a statement released by organizers of his visit on Monday.

Though lauded in much of the world as a figure of moral authority, Beijing demonizes the Buddhist monk and says he seeks to destroy China's sovereignty by pushing for independence for Tibet. China has ruled mountainous Tibet with a heavy hand since its Communist-led forces invaded in 1951.

The Dalai Lama, who lives with followers in exile in India, says he wants "real autonomy" for Tibet, not independence. Still, Beijing has routinely criticized his frequent visits abroad, saying foreign governments are interfering in its internal affairs by hosting him.

The religious leader's recent meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President George W. Bush have drawn rebukes from Chinese officials.

Japan, meanwhile, has been trying to heal frayed relations with its communist neighbor. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a fence-mending visit to Japan's former World War II enemy last year, and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao reciprocated with a visit in April.

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