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US rejects China Dalai Lama warning
US president to meet Tibetan spiritual leader despite China warning it could worsen ties.
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2010 05:24 GMT
An Obama-Dalai Lama meeting could worsen already tense ties, China has warned [AFP]

The United States has rejected pressure from China to stop a meeting between Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama.

Bill Burton, a White House spokesman, said on Tuesday that "the president told China leaders during his trip last year that he would meet with the Dalai Lama, and he intends to do so".

"The Dalai Lama is an internationally respected religious and cultural leader, and the president will meet with him in that capacity."

The confirmation of the meeting comes despite warnings from China that any meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader could further harm already strained China-US relations.

Tense ties

Washington's announcement last week that it would go through with a multi-billion dollar sale of US weapons to Taiwan angered Beijing.

Chinese officials threatened "severe consequences", quickly suspended military relations with the US and raised the prospect of sanctions.

Tensions over cyber security and control of the internet have also soured ties.

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Author Gordon Chang tells Al Jazeera why China may not be as powerful as it seems

Internet giant Google said last month that would no longer follow Chinese internet censorship laws and may pull out of the country altogether after it uncovered a "sophisticated" computer attack on the email accounts of human rights activists protesting against Chinese policies.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, called on China to investigate the alleged cyber attacks in a "transparent" manner and said countries restricting free access to information risked "walling themselves off from the progress of the next century".

That drew a swift rebuke of US double standards from China, which rejected as "groundless" any suggestion it was involved in the alleged attacks on Google.
The White House did not give a date for Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama but the Tibetan leader is visiting the US later this month.

Saying the US has "human rights concerns about the treatment of Tibetans", Burton urged China "to protect the unique cultural and religious traditions of Tibet".

But he also reaffirmed the US stance that it considers Tibet to be a part of China.

China has become increasingly vocal in opposing meetings between foreign leaders and the Dalai Lama, who Beijing sees as having separatist ambitions for Tibet, despite him repeatedly saying he is not seeking independence.

Obama chose not to meet the Dalai Lama when he visited the US last year, shortly before the US president made a trip to China.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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