Carney: Human rights in China are a ‘priority’ for Obama

Carney refused to answer questions about whether the White House would support asylum for Chen, repeatedly referring those questions to the State Department.

"I can assure you that the president is not concerned with political back and forth on this issue," said Carney during a White House press briefing. "He is focused on the need to advance U.S. interests in our broad-based relationship with China, very important, economic, diplomatic relationship with China. 

"He has and will continue to make a priority in that relationship or part of that relationship, an open and frank discussion of our concern about human rights, and that's his focus. It's absolutely in our national interests for us to pursue that kind of broad-based agenda with the Chinese," Carney added.

He also insisted that Chen never requested political asylum while in the U.S. embassy and that U.S. officials did not pressure him to remain in China. On Thursday, days after Chen sought refuge at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, a State Department deal that would have allowed the dissident to remain in China fell apart, creating a diplomatic nightmare for the administration.

For more on Carney's remarks, click here.