News / Asia

Obama Meets With Dalai Lama at White House

Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama has met with the Dalai Lama Thursday, defying China's warnings against the meeting.  The president encouraged Tibetans and the Chinese government to resolve their differences through dialogue.   

President Obama met with the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, despite China's warning that doing so would damage relations between the two countries.

Beijing considers the Dalai Lama a separatist, and objects whenever any government leader meets with him.

After they met, the Dalai Lama indicated to reporters he was not offended that Mr. Obama had decided not to see him before a presidential visit to China last November.

"He always is showing his genuine concern, including his recent visit to Beijing, as he has said, his concerns about Tibet, beside other global issues like that," said the Dalai Lama. "So I expressed my thanks to him."

U.S. lawmakers and human-rights groups have criticized Mr. Obama's decision to delay meeting with the Buddhist leader, an apparent effort to avoid alienating China.

Since the president's trip to Beijing, tensions between the U.S. and China have increased over trade, currencies, Internet censorship and U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

Sophie Richardson, with Human Rights Watch's Asia division, says the president's delay in meeting with the Dalai Lama did not help to reduce those tensions.

"One hopes that the developments of the last couple months have made the Obama administration realize that soft-pedaling on human-rights issues not only does not get them anywhere on human rights issues, but it also does not buy them any fewer headaches on things like arms sales or trade disputes," said Sophie Richardson.

White House officials released a written statement after the meeting, saying the president was pleased to hear that China and the Tibetans recently resumed talks.

Mr. Obama was also said to reaffirm his support for Tibet's unique identity and the protection of Tibetans' human rights as a part of China. 

The Dalai Lama (left) talks with US Secretary of State Clinton in Washington, 18 Feb 2010
The Dalai Lama (left) talks with US Secretary of State Clinton in Washington, 18 Feb 2010

The president did not appear in public with the Dalai Lama, and they met in the Map Room rather than in the Oval Office, signals to Beijing that the Dalai Lama was not being received as a political leader.

Later in the day, the Tibetan monk met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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