Obama to meet Dalai Lama as tensions with China rise
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President Obama has confirmed that he is set to meet the Dalai Lama at the White House on Friday. The Chinese government instantly and predictably went into paroxysms of rage , describing the planned meeting as “gross interference” in China’s internal affairs and warning darkly that the move will “seriously damage” relations with the United States.
China have used all of their political and economic muscle for years to pressure foreign leaders not to meet with Tibet’s exiled leader, hoping to increase the isolation of a man that they seem to view as a dangerous separatist. With relations between the US and China currently riding a series of flashpoints, the announcement of the meeting is undoubtedly a ‘brave’ move by Washington.
In the kind of diplomatic tinkering only governments care about, the meeting will take place in the White House map room rather than in the Oval Office – a venue that is somewhat lower down the hierarchical venue scale than the President’s official office. The White House ‘defended its decision to welcome the Dalai Lama by reminding the media and by extension, the Chinese that Barack Obama has previously met with the spiritual leader on two occasions.
With relations between China and steadfast US ally Japan worsening over territorial claims in the East China Sea, the scheduled meeting with one of China’s bête noirs come hot on the heels of unguarded comments by a senior officer in the US Navy. Captain James Fanell, director of intelligence and information operations at the US Pacific fleet voiced his opinion at a conference that China were preparing for ‘a short sharp war’ with Japan and the seizure of the disputed islands. That is exactly the kind of undiplomatic talk that sets pulses racing in government ministries. Whether he is correct or not is an entirely different question.