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US President Barack Obama meets Dalai Lama, China fumes

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A China daily calls it ‘another world-class show of playing dumb’. Meanwhile, Obama and the visiting Tibetan spiritual leader agree on the importance of a positive US-China relationship

Washington: As President Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama ignoring usual Chinese objections, White House portrayed it as in keeping with past practice and in no way detracting from Washington’s ties with Beijing.

Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama was held in the Map Room of the White House rather than Obama's Oval office, where he usually receives visiting leaders. Pic/AFP
Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama was held in the Map Room of the White House rather than Obama's Oval office, where he usually receives visiting leaders. Pic/AFP

In fact, Obama and the visiting Tibetan spiritual leader “agreed on the importance of a positive and constructive US -China relationship,” said press secretary Jay Carney.

Obama had earlier met the Dalai Lama in February 2010 and July 2011 and presidents of both Democratic and Republican parties have done so since 1991, he said. Each time China has responded to those meetings with angry comments about how they would “inflict grave damages” on the relationship between Washington and Beijing.

“Of course, we are committed to a constructive relationship with China in which we work together to solve regional and global problems,” Carney said. In an apparent small concession to China, Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama was held in the Map Room of the White House rather than Obama’s Oval office, where he usually receives visiting leaders.

Obama’s meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader and fellow Nobel laureate, who is in the US on a speaking tour, was closed to photographers, and, unlike during some previous visits, the Dalai Lama departed the White House without speaking to reporters.

The official said: “The United States supports the Dalai Lama’s ‘middle way’ approach of neither assimilation, nor independence for Tibetans in China.” The US, he said “recognizes Tibet to be a part of the People’s Republic of China and we do not support Tibetan independence.”

“In contrast to previous meetings, the White House seemed unruffled by the diplomatic repercussions of the visit by the Tibetan spiritual leader, which comes as the United States is taking a firmer line with China on a range of territorial disputes with its neighbours,” he said.

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