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Obama to meet with Dalai Lama this month

February 5, 2010

By John Pomfret, Staff Writer
The Washington Post (USA)
February 3, 2010

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit Washington
on Feb. 17-18 and, despite China's opposition, is
expected to meet President Obama at some point
during those two days, sources close to the
exiled Tibetan leader said Wednesday.

Obama was criticized by human rights groups for
postponing a meeting with the Tibetan leader in
October in the run-up to a summit with China's
president, Hu Jintao. During the summit, Obama
told Hu that he was planning to meet with the Dalai Lama.

Over the past several days, the United States and
China have publicly clashed over the planned
meeting and other issues, including the Obama
administration's decision to sell $6.4 billion in
weapons to Taiwan -- which China claims is part
of its territory. The disagreements have led to
the impression that the Obama administration is
embracing a new "get tough" policy with China,
but U.S. officials and independent analysts close
to the Obama administration deny that is the case.

"Anybody who thought U.S.-China relations were
going to be smooth just hasn't been paying
attention," one U.S. official said, speaking on
the condition of anonymity. "We all knew this was going to happen."

On a trip to Hawaii in January, Secretary of
State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters that
she believed U.S. relations with China were
"mature enough" to deal with problems when they arise.

Still, the drumbeat of strong statements from
Beijing does appear more strident than usual.
China reacted to news of the Taiwan arms sales by
suspending parts of its newly resumed military
relationship with the United States. It also took
the unusual step of threatening to sanction U.S.
companies involved in the weapons sales.

The Obama administration needs China's
cooperation on a multitude of international
issues -- such as its efforts to persuade Iran to
give up its alleged nuclear weapons program, its
attempts to persuade North Korea to return to the
negotiating table about its nuclear weapons
program, climate change and the global financial crisis.

"China resolutely opposes the visit by the Dalai
Lama to the United States, and resolutely opposes
the U.S. leader having contact with the Dalai
Lama in any name or any form," Foreign Ministry
spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said Wednesday, echoing a
similar statement by a senior official in the
Communist Party's United Front Department on Tuesday.

White House spokesman Bill Burton said Tuesday
the meeting was still planned, although no date has been set.

"The Dalai Lama is an internationally respected
religious and cultural leader, and the president
will meet with him in that capacity," Burton said.
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