President Barack Obama plans to meet with the 75-year-old Dalai Lama later this month, ignoring Chinese warnings that it would further damage U.S.-China ties already strained by a proposed arms sales to Taiwan and a dispute over censorship of the Internet.
"The Dalai Lama is an internationally respected religious and cultural leader, and the president will meet with him in that capacity," Deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton said yesterday.
Burton declined to say when or where the meeting might occur. An administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity said it would be later this month when the Tibetan spiritual leader is scheduled to be in the U.S., Bloomberg reports.
According to Washington Post, China on Wednesday again urged President Barack Obama not to hold a planned meeting with Dalai Lama, saying it would further hurt already strained bilateral relations.
It was the second successive day that China has spoken out against the meeting, and comes after Beijing said ties had been harmed by a U.S. announcement last week that it would sell arms to Taiwan.
"China resolutely opposes the visit by the Dalai Lama to the United States, and resolutely opposes the U.S. leader having contact with the Dalai Lama in any name or any form," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said Wednesday.
Zhu Weiqun, deputy chief of the Communist Party's United Front, which steers ethnic affairs, issued the ultimatum during a Beijing news conference.
"We oppose any attempt by foreign forces to interfere in China's internal affairs using the Dalai Lama as an excuse," he said. "If the U.S. leader chooses to meet with the Dalai Lama, at this time, it will certainly threaten trust and cooperation between China and the United States."
Every U.S. president since George H.W. Bush has met the Tibetan spiritual leader, but most have downplayed the meetings out of consideration for Beijing.
The senior Mr. Bush and Bill Clinton had unofficial meetings, "dropping in" as the Tibetan monk was visiting a senior advisor. George W. Bush's meeting took place in his private White House residence, avoiding a more public event in the Oval Office.
In 2007, however, Mr. Bush broke with tradition and awarded the Dalai Lama the Congressional Medal of Honor in a public ceremony. Other less-powerful states have felt China's anger over dealings with the Dalai Lama.
Last March, South Africa, fearing a Chinese boycott of the World Cup and trade sanctions, refused to issue the Dalai Lama a visa to attend a peace conference.
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, had two top-level meetings with Chinese officials canceled after she met the Dalai Lama in September 2007, National Post reports.