China is demanding that President Obama cancel Friday's meeting with the Dalai Lama or risk “severely” harming relations between the world's two largest economies.
“The Dalai Lama is a political exile who has long been engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday, according to The Washington Post. “By arranging a meeting between the President and the Dalai Lama, the U.S. side will grossly interfere in the internal affairs of China, seriously violate norms governing international relations and severely impair China-U.S. Relations.”
Obama is scheduled to meet with the Tibetan leader for the third time amid reports of deteriorating religious and other human rights in China. Previous meetings – the last was in 2011 – haven't seriously undermined the U.S.-Chinese relationship, but relations have been particularly strained in recent weeks because of China's territorial claims in the Pacific.
The White House sought to downplay the political ramifications of the meeting, calling the Dalai Lama “an internationally respected religious and cultural leader."
"We are concerned about continuing tensions and the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. "We will continue to urge the Chinese government to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions, as a means to reduce tensions."
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