US President Barack Obama will welcome the Dalai Lama on today and pledge support for human rights in Tibet, officials said, angering China after appeals mounted at home for a meeting.
The White House made the announcement late Friday after a long silence on whether Obama would meet the Dalai Lama, who was to leave Saturday after an 11-day visit to Washington to lead thousands in a Buddhist meditation ritual.
“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,” a White House statement said.
“The president will highlight his enduring support for dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and the Chinese government to resolve differences,” it said.
China lodged an official protest. The foreign ministry said it urged the United States to “immediately revoke its decision” and to “honor its serious commitment that recognizes Tibet as part of China.”
In line with Obama’s last meeting with the Dalai Lama in February 2010, the White House is trying to make the visit as low-key as possible. Obama will receive the Dalai Lama in the Map Room — not the Oval Office where he welcomes
heads of state — and will not allow in reporters.
The Dalai Lama, who enjoys wide popularity in the United States, has lived in exile since 1959. The Nobel Peace Prize winner, a declared pacifist, says he is peacefully seeking rights for Tibetans and accepts Chinese rule.
US lawmakers welcomed the 76-year-old monk to the Capitol on July 7 and several of them had criticized Obama, believing he had decided not to meet the Dalai Lama in deference to pressure from China.
Lawmakers said that Obama was disrespectful to the Dalai Lama during his last visit to the White House by obliging the monk to use a back entrance next to garbage cans. The Dalai Lama found his way to waiting reporters and even engaged in a playful snowball fight.
The Dalai Lama’s latest visit to Washington had been known months in advance. He is leading a Kalachakra — a tantric ritual last held more than five years ago in India — at the Verizon Center sports arena.
The trip comes in between a number of US interactions with China that the Obama administration believes are critical for future relations between the world’s two largest economies.
Admiral Mike Mullen visited China this week, the first trip there by the top US military officer in four years. US policy-makers are eager to step up defense dialogue, fearing miscalculations as China rapidly expands its military.
Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel next month to China for talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, who is widely expected to become president next year. Clinton will also hold talks in China on July 25.
Four consecutive sitting presidents have met the Dalai Lama. But only George W. Bush appeared in an open setting next to the monk when he presented him with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.
Source – AFP