Page last updated at 09:21 GMT, Monday, 31 August 2009 10:21 UK

Dalai Lama sees Taiwan storm area

Exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama (R) prays in Hsiaolin
The Dalai Lama led prayers in the devastated village of Hsiaolin

The Dalai Lama is visiting the typhoon-hit areas of southern Taiwan on a tour that China has warned will hurt its recent rapprochement with Taipei.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's first stop was Hsiaolin, a village where at least 424 people died in a mudslide caused by Typhoon Morakot.

The Dalai Lama knelt on the ground above the former farming village, and prayed for those that perished.

China considers the Dalai Lama a separatist seeking Tibet independence.

It also sees Taiwan as a renegade province but had been pursuing closer economic ties with Taipei following the election of President Ma Ying-jeou.

The Dalai Lama denied he had any political agenda.

"I'm a monk. I was asked to say prayers for peace," he said late on Sunday after arriving in Taiwan from India. "There is no politics. This is humanitarian in nature."

'Oppose this'

Shortly after the Dalai Lama's arrival, the Chinese government issued its second stern criticism of the trip.

"The Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan is bound to have a negative influence on relations between the mainland and Taiwan," a spokesman for the cabinet-level Taiwan Affairs Office said in comments quoted by China's official Xinhua news agency.

"We resolutely oppose this, and our position is firm and clear. We will keep a close eye on the situation," the spokesman said.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou approved the visit after his government was accused of offering a slow and inefficient response to the typhoon.

At least 571 people were killed, with another 106 missing and feared dead.

The Dalai Lama is expected to lead a mass prayer and address the island's Buddhist followers during his five-day visit.

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