WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama met with the Dalai Lama at the White House Friday over the stern objection of China, which warned the meeting would "inflict grave damages" on the U.S. relationship with the Asian nation.
Obama greeted the Dalai Lama while the Tibetan spiritual leader and fellow Nobel laureate was in the U.S. on a speaking tour. The meeting was closed to photographers, and, unlike during some previous visits, the Dalai Lama departed the White House without speaking to reporters.
When the White House announced the meeting late Thursday, China responded almost immediately, urging Obama to cancel it in what has become something of a diplomatic ritual whenever the president meets with the exiled Buddhist monk. In a biting statement, China's government accused Obama of letting the Dalai Lama use the White House to promote anti-Chinese activities.
"The U.S. leader's planned meeting with Dalai is a gross interference in China's domestic politics," said Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry. "It is a severe violation of the principles of international relations. It will inflict grave damages upon the China-U.S. relationship."
Beijing has often protested when world leaders have granted audiences to the Dalai Lama, including when Obama met with him in 2010 and again in 2011. Chinese officials denounce the Dalai Lama as a separatist responsible for instigating self-immolations by Tibetans inside China, but he is widely respected around the world for his advocacy of peace and tolerance.