Washington, Feb. 21 (Reuters): President Barack Obama met exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama today in a show of concern about China’s human rights practices, and in spite of warnings from China the visit would “seriously damage” ties between the two countries.
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.
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.
The meeting came at a delicate time for Sino-US relations.
The US has expressed concern about China’s increasingly assertive behaviour in the East China Sea and South China Sea and Obama’s US strategic pivot, or rebalancing, toward Asia, is seen as a reaction to the growing clout of China.