The new meeting is “an excellent opportunity for America as a nation and for Obama as an American president to really reinforce the values that you cherish,” the Dalai Lama’s special envoy, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, said in an interview Tuesday. “You should be proud of that, not hesitant about that.”
For its part, the Obama administration seems to have planned the get-together in such a way as to both honor the Tibetan leader and avoid enraging Beijing. Although Obama won’t meet the Dalai Lama in public — as President George W. Bush did in 2008 when the Dalai Lama was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal — he will host him in the West Wing, and not the White House’s private quarters as President Bill Clinton used to do.
The meeting, which comes on the heels of a decision to sell China’s nemesis Taiwan $6.4 billion in weapons, will take place in the Map Room; no president has met with the Dalai Lama in the Oval Office.
Update: Reuters reports that Tibetans living near the Dalai Lama’s birthplace set off fireworks to celebrate the upcoming White House meeting:
Buddhist monks in Tongren, an overwhelmingly ethnic Tibetan part of northwestern Qinghai province, said they were celebrating the meeting in Washington, which is going ahead despite warnings from Beijing that Obama’s act will hurt Sino-U.S. ties.
Tensions with Washington have already risen over issues ranging from trade and currencies to a U.S. plan to sell $6.4 billion of weapons to self-ruled Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.
The midnight display of fireworks along a valley dotted with Tibetan Buddhist monasteries was a bold and noisy reminder that, in spite of Chinese condemnation of the Dalai Lama, he remains a potent figure in his homeland, and his meeting with Obama will be noticed here by both supporters and opponents.