Page last updated at 13:05 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

China warns Obama not to meet Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama in Washington DC (October 2009)
China accuses the Dalai Lama of being a troublemaker

China has warned that ties with the US would be undermined if US President Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama.

There is speculation that Mr Obama will meet the Tibetan spiritual leader in Washington later this month, but no date has been confirmed.

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

The dispute is the latest of several strains on the countries' relations.

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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.

Last year Mr Obama passed up the opportunity to see the Dalai Lama when he visited the US, but a White House spokesman said last month the two men intended to meet when the Tibetan monk visited Washington later in February.

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"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.

He said that if a meeting did take place, China would "take corresponding action to make relevant countries see their mistakes".

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

"If they [the US] don't recognise that Tibet is part of China, it will seriously undermine the political foundation of Sino-US relations."

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

'Baseless accusations'

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

Zhu Weiqun
Zhu Weiqun has just been meeting the Dalai Lama's representatives

It was the ninth time the two sides have met since 2002, but Mr Zhu said the positions of both sides remained "sharply divided" - a situation which had "become a norm rather than an exception".

According to China, at this latest round of meetings the Tibetans again reiterated their hopes for the introduction of greater autonomy in the Himalayan region.

But Mr Zhu said there was no possibility of the "slightest compromise" on the issue of sovereignty in Tibet.

He also attacked the Dalai Lama, who he said was a troublemaker.

"He should make a thorough self-examination of his words and deeds and radically correct his political positions if he really expects results of contact and talks," he said.

A spokesman for the Dalai Lama called on the Chinese to "stop the baseless accusations" against the leader.

Kasur Lodi Gyarit urged Beijing to work with the spiritual leader in order to "ensure stability, unity and the development of a harmonious society".

Taiwan row

The row over the Dalai Lama's visit has added to an increasingly tense relationship between China and the US in recent months.

Taiwanese soldier in a Taiwan-made CM-11 tank

The two countries have clashed over trade and internet censorship, and most recently over arms sales to Taiwan.

On Tuesday Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the $6.4bn (£4bn) arms deal would damage both Washington and Beijing's interests and would "unavoidably affect China-US co-operation on important international and regional issues".

He repeated Beijing's threats to impose sanctions on US companies involved in the sale, including aerospace giant Boeing, which dominates China's airline market.

But the BBC's world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds says that while the Chinese reaction was strong, it was well-rehearsed and within bounds.

If Washington ever sold clearly offensive weapons to Taiwan - such as cruise or ballistic missiles - China would be seriously angered, but this sale is only of defensive weaponry.

Taiwan has long been an issue of contention between China and the US. The island has been ruled by a separate government to China since the end of the civil war in 1949, but China still considers it to be part of its territory.

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