Obama risks China row with Dalai Lama invite
Published 18/02/2010 | 05:00
US PRESIDENT Barack Obama is to greet the Dalai Lama behind closed doors at the White House today amid simmering tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Unlike George W Bush, who met Tibet's spiritual leader in public when awarding him a Congressional Gold Award Medal in 2007, Mr Obama will hold talks in private. Cameras are unlikely to be permitted.
Mr Obama avoided meeting the Dalai Lama last year in the hope of forging good relations with China, which campaigns for nations to ignore the internationally respected Buddhist monk.
But he now regards that decision -- the first time since 1991 that a US president had declined to host the exiled Tibetan leader -- as a flop.
And this time, Mr Obama will go further than most of his predecessors by holding a meeting in the official West Wing, rather than private quarters.
It comes as tensions are high between the two powers over America's sale of arms worth e4.3bn to Taiwan, China's interference with Google's online network and trade and currency disagreements.
"The most important thing is that the meeting is taking place," said Tenzin Taklha, the Dalai Lama's spokesman, before flying to Washington from the exiled Tibetan government's seat in Dharamsala, India.
"No matter what China says, China cares about international opinion. The president's meeting with His Holiness is an expression of the international community's concern.
"It sends a strong signal to the Chinese that they need to work with us to reach a solution."
Mr Taklha said the Nobel peace laureate would brief Mr Obama on Tibet and the latest talks between his envoys and the Chinese authorities.
Discussions held last month, the first between the two sides since November 2008, marked the ninth round of a dialogue that has yielded no tangible progress in eight years.
Many observers believe the Chinese are simply stringing the Tibetan exiles along until the Dalai Lama dies, assuming that the Tibetan movement will wither without him. (© Daily Telegraph, London)