Despite China warnings, Obama meets Dalai Lama
President Barack Obama met exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in a show of concern about China's human rights practices, and in spite of warnings from China that the visit would "seriously damage" ties with Washington.
The private meeting appeared to last about an hour, although the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was not seen by White House photographers as he entered or exited the complex.
Obama reiterated his support for Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions and human rights for Tibetans, the White House said in a statement.
"The president stressed that he encourages direct dialogue to resolve longstanding differences and that a dialogue that produces results would be positive for China and Tibetans," the statement said.
Obama also said he does not support Tibetan independence from China and the Dalai Lama said he was not seeking it, the White House said.
It was the third time Obama had met the Dalai Lama, who the White House calls "an internationally respected religious and cultural leader." Previous meetings were in February 2010 and July 2011.
In what appeared to be a small concession to the Chinese, the visit was held in the White House Map Room, a historically important room but of less significance than the Oval Office, the president's inner sanctum.
China calls the Dalai Lama a "wolf in sheep's clothing" who seeks to use violent methods to establish an independent Tibet. The Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959, maintains he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet and denies advocating violence.
China took control of Tibet in 1950. Human rights groups say China tramples on the religious, cultural and linguistic rights of Tibetans and enforces its rule using brutal methods.
The United States recognizes Tibet as part of China and does not support Tibetan independence, but supports the Dalai Lama's approach for more autonomy, and has long urged the Chinese government to hold talks with him, said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.
Diplomats in Beijing have told reporters Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet at a nuclear security summit in the Netherlands next month.
When asked whether China would cancel the meeting, Hua later said at a daily news briefing: "If any country deliberately insists on harming China's interests, in the end, it will also damage its own interests and will harm the bilateral relations between China and the relevant country."
"(If) the US president wishes to meet any person, it's his own affair, but he cannot meet the Dalai," she said. "The Dalai is definitely not a pure religious figure. He is using the cloak of religion to engage in long-term activities to separate China. He is a political exile."