Dalai Lama And Obama Meet to Talk About Tibet

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WASHINGTON President Obama met privately with the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, at the White House on Saturday, despite a warning from Beijing that the meeting would risk damaging relations between China and the United States.

Reflecting the diplomatic sensitivity of the visit, the 44-minute meeting with the Dalai Lama — Mr. Obama’s second as president — was closed to the news media. China considers Tibet its territory and the Dalai Lama a separatist, although he favors self-rule rather than independence.

In announcing the meeting late Friday, the White House said Mr. Obama would express support for a resolution between China and Tibet that protects Tibet’s interests.

The meeting came at a particularly delicate time as China, the largest creditor to the United States, has expressed concern about the risk of a default on United States bonds if Mr. Obama and Congressional Republicans cannot break their impasse over raising the nation’s legal debt limit.

The White House, in its statement on Friday, said, “This meeting underscores the president’s strong support for the preservation of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity, and the protection of human rights for Tibetans.” The statement added that Mr. Obama would “highlight his enduring support for dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and the Chinese government to resolve differences.”

Beijing on Saturday reiterated its call for Mr. Obama to cancel the meeting, according to China’s official news agency, Xinhua. “The issue regarding Tibet concerns China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we firmly oppose any foreign official to meet with the Dalai Lama in any form,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

Mr. Obama declined to meet with the Dalai Lama in his first year as president, in October 2009, drawing international criticism as seeming to put economic interests with China ahead of human rights. The administration said the men would meet after Mr. Obama’s first trip a month later to China, where the United States was eager for Chinese cooperation in preventing nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran. Their introduction came the following February.

The Dalai Lama, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, has lived in exile in India since 1959, when China repressed an uprising by Tibetans in their remote Himalayan region. He has been in Washington for an 11-day Buddhist ritual; China has said he is in Washington to engage in activities to “split the motherland.”

A version of this article appeared in print on July 17, 2011, on page A8 of the New York edition with the headline: Dalai Lama And Obama Meet to Talk About Tibet.

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