Obama meets Dalai Lama at White House
Meeting comes despite China's warning that spiritual leader's Washington visit will "seriously damage" relations.
China urged the US to scrap plans for the meeting [AP]
|United States President Barack Obama has met exiled
Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, at the White House in a show
of concern about China's human rights practices.|
The meeting was announced by the White House through Twitter on Friday. The private meeting lasted about an hour, although the Dalai Lama was not seen by White House photographers as he entered or exited the complex.
It was the third time Obama 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.
Obama's session with the Dalai Lama sent a "powerful message" with the two leaders discussing human rights, Tibet's exiled prime minister told AFP after the White House talks.
"It sends a very powerful message to Tibetans inside Tibet because it gives them a sense of hope that their voices are heard, even by the most powerful person in the world," Lobsang Sangay said.
"The respect shown to His Holiness by President Obama means a lot to Tibetans all over the world, particularly inside Tibet."
The meeting comes despite China's call for the US to scrap plans for the meeting, warning it would "seriously damage" ties between the two countries.
"The United States' arrangement for its leader to meet the Dalai would be a gross interference in China's internal affairs and is a serious violation of the norms of international relations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement before the meeting.
While the US recognises Tibet as part of China and does not support Tibetan independence, it supports the Dalai Lama's approach for more autonomy, said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, a day before the meeting.
"We are concerned about continuing tensions and the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China," Hayden said.
The US has also been concerned about a territorial dispute between China and Japan over a remote chain of islands in the East China Sea. Washington has vowed to ignore an air defense zone declared over the area by Beijing.