China has urged the US not to meet with the Dalai Lama
On February 18th, President Barack Obama will meet with Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs confirmed today.
When asked to whether the meeting would further damage Sino-US relations, Mr Gibbs said that the relationship between the two nations was mature enough to disagree while finding common ground on international issues.
Mr Gibbs said the Dalai Lama was "an internationally respected religious leader".
"He's a spokesman for Tibetan rights. The president looks forward to an engaging and constructive meeting," he said.
Gibbs further added that "We think we have a mature enough relationship with the Chinese that we can agree on mutual interests, but also have a mature enough relationship that we know the two countries are not always going to agree on everything."
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu, quickly responded to the announcement saying "We firmly oppose the Dalai Lama visiting the United States and US leaders having contact with him".
"We urge the US side to fully understand the high sensitivity of Tibet-related issues, and honor its commitment to recognize Tibet as part of China and to oppose 'Tibet independence'," Mr. Ma said in his statement.
"China urges the US... to immediately call off the wrong decision of arranging for President Obama to meet with the Dalai Lama... to avoid any more damage to Sino-US relations."
China has held control of Tibet since 1950. Beijing considers the Dalai Lama a separatist criminal and has continually tried to isolate the spiritual leader since his flight from Tibet in 1959, by asking foreign leaders not to meet with him.
Ultimately, such posturing on the part of China will amount to nothing. Though angered much as of late over everything from the US's sell of $6.4 billion worth of weapons to Taiwan to President Obama's criticism of China's manipulated currency value, China has no choice but to cooperate on international issues with the US.
One may even argue that the only aid that China has provided the US in international affairs has come only when doing so was the best action for China's interests. For instance, China allows the DPRK to behave recklessly without applying pressure in order to keep Kim Jung-il in line, until the tension in the region and the West becomes near hostile.
A majority of the world's leading nations agrees that Iran should not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons, yet China consistently blocks the UN from placing tougher sanctions on Tehran due to deep business relations between Iran and China.
Thus, it would make little sense for the US to worry about China's disagreement over allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Washington or Taiwan for that matter. Washington must act in its interests, just as China acts according to its interests. In the end, Beijing made its displeasure known, yet will still work with the US in several areas, including economic trade because it has no real alternative.