Friday, February 19, 2010

Obama meets Dalai Lama despite Chinese warning

..... and here is a picture I made of the Dalai Lama's meeting with the late David Lange who was New Zealand's Prime Minister from 1984 to 1989. The occasion was the Dalai Lama's second visit to New Zealand in 1996.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama hosted the Dalai Lama at the White House on Thursday, brushing aside China's warning that the talks with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader could further damage strained Sino-U.S. ties.

Obama's first presidential meeting with the Dalai Lama was sure to draw a fresh round of angry complaints from Beijing, which is increasingly at odds with Washington over trade, currencies, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and Chinese Internet censorship.

While defying Chinese demands to scrap the talks, the White House took pains to keep the encounter low key in an apparent bid to placate Beijing. The Dalai Lama entered out of sight of journalists, and there was no media coverage of the meeting.

With the two giant economies so deeply intertwined, tensions are considered unlikely to escalate into outright confrontation. The White House expects only limited fallout.

But the Dalai Lama's visit could complicate Obama's efforts to secure China's help on key issues such as imposing tougher sanctions on Iran, resolving the North Korean nuclear standoff and forging a new global accord on climate change.

By going ahead with the meeting over Chinese objections, Obama may be trying to show his resolve against an increasingly assertive Beijing after facing criticism at home for being too soft with China's leaders on his trip there in November.

"Chinese officials have known about this, and their reaction is their reaction," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said dismissively on the eve of the Dalai Lama's visit.

Although admired by millions around the world as a man of peace, the Dalai Lama is accused by Beijing of being a dangerous separatist who foments unrest in Tibet.

But mindful of Chinese sensitivities, the White House has sought to strike a balance in the Dalai Lama's visit. It comes with China still fuming over a U.S. plan to sell $6.4 billion in arms to Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.

Seeking to avoid alienating Beijing, Obama had delayed meeting the Dalai Lama until after first seeing Chinese leaders during his Asia trip last year.

During Thursday's visit, Obama -- like his White House predecessors -- denied the Dalai Lama the symbolism of meeting in the Oval Office. Instead they met in the lesser-known Map Room. Such distinctions signalled to Beijing that the Tibetan monk was not being received as a political leader.

Ahead of the talks, Tibetans living near the Dalai Lama's birthplace in northwest China welcomed the White House meeting with a defiant show of fireworks. The midnight display along a valley dotted with Tibetan Buddhist monasteries was a reminder that the Dalai Lama remains a potent figure in his homeland.

No comments: