WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will host Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama for a meeting today, the White House said, in a move that could rankle already tense relations between the U.S. and China.
The exiled leader, who is in the U.S. for a speaking tour, is famed for his peaceful struggle for greater Tibetan autonomy that is bitterly opposed by China. The last time he met with Obama, in 2011, China blasted the meeting and said it had damaged Chinese-American ties. China was similarly irked when the two met in 2010.
Today’s meeting was likely to draw further protest from Beijing. China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but in the past, Chinese authorities have denounced the spiritual leader as a separatist and blamed the Dalai Lama for instigating self-immolations by Tibetans inside China.
Obama was to host the Nobel laureate for a private, morning meeting in the White House’s map room. Traditionally, when Obama meets with presidents and prime ministers, he hosts them in the Oval Office and allows reporters to witness a short portion of the meeting. The decision to hold the meeting elsewhere and to close the meeting to reporters could signal an attempt to avoid the appearance of a formal meeting between two heads of state.