Page last updated at 19:57 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Obama firm on Dalai Lama meeting despite China warning

Barack Obama - 1 February 2010
Mr Obama declined to meet the Dalai Lama last year

US President Barack Obama intends to go ahead with plans to meet the Dalai Lama despite warnings from China not to, a White House spokesman has said.

Mr Obama told China's leaders last year in Beijing that he would meet with the Tibetan spiritual leader, White House spokesman Bill Burton said.

China has warned that ties with the US would be undermined if the meeting takes place.

No date has been set but it is expected to take place later this month.

"The president told China's leaders during his trip last year that he would meet with the Dalai Lama and he intends to do so," White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters.

"The Dalai Lama is an internationally respected religious and cultural leader and the president will meet with him in that capacity," he said.

The comments came after Communist Party official Zhu Weiqun said such a meeting would "threaten trust and co-operation" between Beijing and Washington.

'Tibetan separatist'

Relations between the world's largest and third-largest economies have already been strained by trade disputes, US arms sales to Taiwan and a row over internet censorship.

Google - China denies being behind an alleged cyber attack on the US search engine
Taiwan - a US sale of $6.4bn (£4bn) of defensive arms to Taiwan has angered Beijing
Tibet - China says a US meeting with the Dalai Lama would "undermine relations"
Trade - rows over imports and exports of meat, media, car tyres and raw materials
Iran - the US fears China will not back tougher sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear programme
Climate - the US is disappointed at China's tough position at the Copenhagen Summit

China, which took over Tibet in 1950, considers the Dalai Lama a separatist and tries to isolate the spiritual leader by asking foreign leaders not to see him.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule and has been living in India since then.

Mr Obama declined to see the Dalai Lama last year when he visited the US, saying he would meet him later.

A White House spokesman said last month that the two men intended to meet when the Tibetan monk visited Washington later in February.

"If the US leader chooses to meet with the Dalai Lama at this time, it will certainly threaten trust and co-operation between China and the United States," said Mr Zhu, executive deputy minister of the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department.

"We oppose any attempt by foreign forces to interfere in China's internal affairs using the Dalai Lama as an excuse," he said.

Mr Zhu was speaking at a press conference to discuss the recent five-day visit to China by the Dalai Lama's representatives.

The Tibetans repeated their hopes for greater autonomy for the Himalayan region, but Mr Zhu said there was no possibility of the "slightest compromise" on the issue of sovereignty in Tibet.

The two sides have held a number of meetings on Tibet's status since 2002.

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