The Associated Press reports that Barack Obama has invited the visiting Dalai Lama to the White House.
Employing a low-key approach, the White House has set the meeting in the White House Map Room, not the Oval Office, which is reserved for visiting heads of state. The White House is keeping the meeting closed to the news media, as it did last year.
A White House official says Obama will urge that representatives of the Dalai Lama be allowed to engage with Chinese authorities and will call for the preservation of Tibetan culture.
Obama angered Beijing by meeting with the Dalai Lama last year, and faced pressure in both directions this time. From Reuters, on July 7th:
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing’s position on the Dalai Lama’s foreign visits was clear.
“We oppose the underhand visits of the Dalai Lama which he uses to engage in activities to split the motherland,” Hong told a regular news briefing.
“At the same time, we also oppose any foreign government or politicians supporting or abetting in such activities by the Dalai Lama,” he added ….
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement saying Obama should also meet the Dalai Lama to make it “clear that the U.S. sides with the victims in Tibet, not the perpetrators in Beijing.”
China has wasted no time in protesting the invitation. From the BBC:
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement on Saturday: “We firmly oppose any senior foreign government officials meeting with the Dalai Lama in any way.”
The White House did not immediately return a call seeking comment about Beijing’s displeasure.
But the White House said earlier in a statement announcing the meeting: “The president will highlight his enduring support for dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and the Chinese government to resolve differences.”