China's vice foreign minister, Zhang Yesui, summoned Daniel
Kritenbrink, charge d'affaires of the U.S. embassy in China, on
Friday night to condemn the meeting as interference in China's
internal affairs, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
China calls the Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed
uprising in 1959, a "wolf in sheep's clothing" who seeks to use
violent methods to establish an independent Tibet. The Dalai Lama
says he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet and denies advocating
Obama's private meeting with the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize
laureate, lasted for about an hour. Obama reaffirmed his support for
Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions and
human rights for Tibetans, the White House said.
Obama said he did not support Tibetan independence from China and
the Dalai Lama said he was not seeking it, the White House said in a
The White House sidestepped questions about whether it was worried
about the reaction from China.
"We are committed to a constructive relationship with China in which
we work together to solve regional and global problems," White House
spokesman Jay Carney told a regular news briefing, noting that Obama
and other U.S. presidents had previously met the Tibetan leader.
China's foreign ministry, in a statement on its website, cited vice
foreign minister Zhang as saying the meeting was "a wrong move by
the United States that seriously interfered in China's internal
affairs and seriously violated the U.S. promise of not supporting
"The United States' insistence on doing so would seriously damage
China-U.S. cooperation and bilateral relations, and would also harm
the interests of the United States itself," Zhang said. "The United
States must take concrete actions to gain the trust of the Chinese
government and people."
The uproar is expected to be one of many challenges for the new U.S.
ambassador in China, Max Baucus, who was sworn in to his new role on
Friday by Vice President Joe Biden.
U.S. CALL FOR DIALOGUE
Human rights groups say China tramples on the rights of Tibetans and
employs brutal methods to enforce its rule. More than 120 Tibetans
have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest against China.
Most have died.
"We're concerned about continuing tensions and the deteriorating
human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China," Carney told
"We will continue to urge the Chinese government to resume dialogue
with the Dalai Lama or his representatives without pre-conditions as
a means to reduce tensions," he said.
To encourage those talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on
Friday he had named one of his officials, Sarah Sewall, as a special
coordinator for Tibetan Issues.
Sewall was sworn in on Thursday as an undersecretary responsible for
human rights issues, a post which traditionally has involved work on
It was the third time Obama had met the Dalai Lama, whom the White
House calls "an internationally respected religious and cultural
leader." Previous meetings were in 2010 and 2011.
In what appeared to be a small concession to the Chinese, the visit
was held in the White House Map Room, a historically important room
but of less significance than the more prestigious Oval Office,
where the president normally meets visiting leaders.
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The Dalai Lama did not speak to the media after the meeting, unlike
in 2011 when he spoke to reporters after meeting Obama.
"This meeting sends a powerful message of hope to Tibetans in Tibet
who are undergoing immense suffering," Lobsang Sangay, leader of the
Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan government-in-exile,
said in a statement.
NO SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES EXPECTED
The meeting came at a sensitive time for Sino-U.S. relations after
China's increasingly assertive behavior in the East China and South
Obama has embarked on a strategic U.S. political and security
rebalancing toward Asia, in what is seen as a reaction to the
growing influence of China. As part of this strategy, he plans a
week-long visit to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines
in late April.
The Global Times, an influential Chinese tabloid run by the
Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, said the meeting
"The sudden meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama at a time of
complex Sino-U.S. relations will only irritate China and make the
Chinese pessimistic about U.S. sincerity in developing positive
relations," the paper said.
China had urged the White House to cancel the meeting with the Dalai
Lama after it was announced on Thursday evening.
Previous meetings drew similar criticism from China, but did not
have serious repercussions.
Jonathan Pollack, an analyst with the Brookings Institution
think-tank, said it was extremely unlikely that China would takes
steps such as canceling high-level meetings over the visit, given
there was so much at stake in China-U.S. ties.
"Obviously the Chinese are predictably and ritualistically agitated,
but their words, compared to what they have said in the past, are,
if anything, a little less sharp," he said.
Diplomats in Beijing have told Reuters Obama and Chinese President
Xi Jinping are expected to meet at a nuclear security summit in the
Netherlands next month.
The choreography of Friday's meeting, and the Chinese reaction,
followed predictable patterns, said Douglas Paal of the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace.
"They've arranged it to be held in the same fashion, roughly, that
it's been held most times the Dalai Lama has come," he said.
"There's no escalation."
The Dalai Lama was not seen by the White House press corps and the
White House did not give photographers access to the meeting.
The White House released its own photograph of the two leaders after
the meeting. The Dalai Lama is scheduled to stay in the United
States for a speaking tour lasting another two weeks.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland
and David Brunnstrom in Washington and Natalie Thomas and Ben
Blanchard in Beijing; editing by Chris Reese, Sandra Maler, Mohammad
Zargham and Robert Birsel)
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