President Barack Obama is hosting the Dalai Lama at the White House over the stern objections of China, which warned the meeting would "inflict grave damages" on the US relationship with the Asian powerhouse.
Obama will greet the Tibetan spiritual leader and fellow Nobel laureate while the Dalai Lama is in the US on a speaking tour. The White House did not announce the meeting until late yesterday, prompting a gruff complaint from Beijing in what has become something of a diplomatic ritual whenever Obama meets the exiled Buddhist monk.
Urging Obama to cancel the meeting, China's government accused the president of letting the Dalai Lama use the White House as a podium to promote anti-Chinese activities.
"The US leader's planned meeting with Dalai is a gross interference in China's domestic politics," said Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry. "It is a severe violation of the principles of international relations. It will inflict grave damages upon the China-US relationship."
Beijing routinely protests when world leaders grant an audience to the Dalai Lama, including when Obama met him in 2010 and again in 2011. Chinese officials denounce the Dalai Lama as a separatist responsible for instigating self-immolations by Tibetans inside China, but he is widely respected around the world for his advocacy of peace and tolerance.
Obama was to host the Dalai Lama in the White House's Map Room, rather than the Oval Office, where the president traditionally brings a visiting leader for a round of photographs. The private meeting, closed to reporters, suggested an attempt to avoid the appearance of a formal meeting between two heads of state.
The US had no immediate response to the rebuke from China.
But in announcing the meeting earlier, the White House said Obama was meeting with the Dalai Lama in his capacity as a cultural and religious leader. As if to indicate an overreaction had been expected, officials reiterated that the US recognises Tibet as part of China and doesn't support Tibetan independence.