Washington President Barack Obama personally welcomed the Dalai Lama to the White House on Thursday and lauded his goals for the Tibetan people, but he kept their get-together off-camera and low-key in an attempt to avoid inflaming tensions with China.
At the risk of angering Beijing, Obama did tell the exiled spiritual leader that he backs the preservation of Tibet’s culture and supports human rights for its people. He also gave encouragement to the Dalai Lama’s request for talks with the Chinese government
Meetings between the Dalai Lama and U.S. presidents became standard fare under former President George H.W. Bush nearly 20 years ago. But the choreography is always delicate and closely watched because of China’s sensitivity.
Revered in much of the world, the Dalai Lama is seen by Beijing as a separatist seeking to overthrow Chinese rule of Tibet. Though he says that is untrue, China regards any official foreign leader’s contact with the Buddhist monk as an infringement on its sovereignty over the mountainous region and as a particularly unwelcome snub. China had urged Obama not to meet with the Dalai Lama.