Dalai Lama’s visit to White House kept low-key in deference to China

PRESIDENT Barack Obama welcomed the Dalai Lama for White House talks yesterday, risking fallout in China over the meeting, as well as his statement in support of the preservation of Tibet’s identity and human rights.

“The president commended the Dalai Lama’s ‘Middle Way’ approach, his commitment to nonviolence and his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government,” the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said after the private meeting which lasted over an hour.

Speaking to reporters on the White House driveway, the Dalai Lama said he was “very happy” with the session. The exiled Tibetan leader said he spoke to Obama about the promotion of human value, religious harmony, a greater leadership role for women around the world and the concerns of the Tibetan people. He said Obama was “very much supportive”.

Obama’s largely symbolic meeting with the Dalai Lama was kept low-key by comparison to other visiting leaders, out of deference to China. With Beijing considering the Buddhist monk a separatist, Obama doesn’t want to overly anger China at a time when its cooperation is needed to underwrite the US economy, in nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea and climate change.

The meeting was held in the Map Room rather than the Oval Office out of view of the media and public: “The optics of this thing are incredibly important to the Chinese,” said Michael Green, former President George W Bush’s senior Asia adviser. “The Chinese government is preoccupied with protocol and how things look.”


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