The White House has announced that President Obama is meeting with Tibet’s exiled leader the Dalai Lama today, despite demands by China to cancel the talks.
China has warned the meeting will damage Beijing’s relationship with Washington as the communist nation accuses the Dalai Lama of pushing to free Tibet from Chinese rule, a claim he denies.
Obama’s decision not to meet with the disputed region’s spiritual leader last year created a setback for the Tibetan cause and was interpreted by some as a sign of American weakness as well as an opportunity for China to enhance pressure on other countries to cut their ties to the exiled government, said the Dalai Lama’s special envoy Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, quoted by The New York Times.
"Unfortunately it had definitely created setbacks for us on that score," he told the news provider, but added that "it is my hope that this meeting will help overcome these concerns."
Meanwhile, deputy press secretary Bill Burton told reporters that the U.S. considers Tibet part of China, but urged the Chinese to respect Tibet’s cultural and religious traditions.
Commentators suggest Obama is walking a fine line between his desire to promote the rights of Tibetans while cultivating good relations with China, whose support he needs to counter nuclear proliferation by North Korea and Iran, secure an agreement on climate change and deal with the global financial crisis.