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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Will Obama meet with China's nemesis, Dalai Lama?

April 22, 2009

By FOSTER KLUG – 10 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — A closely watched visit is set to take place in
October, when a frail, 74-year-old Buddhist monk seeks an audience with
President Barack Obama.

Obama must make a delicate calculation as he considers a meeting with
the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet's Buddhists, seen
by his supporters as a symbol of peace but vilified by China as a "wolf
in monk's robes" who seeks to split Tibet from the rest of China.

Whatever Obama decides about the visit will spark anger.

Meeting with the Dalai Lama, as every president since George H.W. Bush
has done, would infuriate China, whose help the United States sees as
crucial to global economic recovery efforts and dealing with nuclear
standoffs in North Korea and Iran.

Activists would seize on a White House visit for the Nobel Peace
laureate as a powerful message to Tibetans and others struggling for
human rights around the world.

The Obama administration, in the months ahead, will weigh its desire to
secure crucial Chinese cooperation on global crises with its worries
that China is abusing the rights of Tibetans.

The Dalai Lama is celebrated in much of the world as a figure of moral
authority. In response to China's claims that he seeks Tibetan
independence, the Dalai Lama has said repeatedly that he wants only
"real autonomy" for Tibet.

The Dalai Lama's supporters expect Obama will continue the long-standing
U.S. presidential tradition of meeting with the monk.

Obama's administration, however, has faced criticism that a growing
emphasis on U.S-Chinese economic and diplomatic cooperation has fueled
reluctance to confront the Chinese on sensitive human rights and trade
issues.

Last Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner would not cite China
as a country that manipulates its currency to gain unfair trade
advantages, despite American claims that the undervalued Chinese
currency is the biggest cause for the huge trade deficit the United
States runs with China.

In February, the Obama administration delighted China when Secretary of
State Hillary Rodham Clinton said during her trip to Beijing that the
United States would not let its human rights concerns interfere with
cooperation with Beijing.

Dennis Wilder, who served as President George W. Bush's senior Asia
adviser, said some of Obama's economic advisers, eager to get more
Chinese cooperation on the financial meltdown, might be tempted to
"lower the profile" of a Dalai Lama meeting.

Both Bush's father and President Bill Clinton met unofficially with the
Dalai Lama, each "dropping in" as the monk visited with a senior adviser.

The second President Bush met with the Dalai Lama in the private
residences of the White House, avoiding the more public Oval Office. But
he broke with tradition when, in an elaborate public ceremony, he
presented the Dalai Lama with the U.S. Congress' highest civilian honor
in 2007, calling the monk a "universal symbol of peace and tolerance."

China was outraged and said the United States had "gravely undermined"
relations.

Indeed, China's reaction is unambiguous when foreign leaders meet with
the Dalai Lama. China canceled a major summit with the European Union
when French President Nicolas Sarkozy met last year with the Dalai Lama.

China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said last month that shunning the
Dalai Lama should be considered one of the "basic principles of
international relations."

As October approaches, U.S. officials will take a close look at the
state of relations with China. Based on those ties, the administration
will then decide whether Obama can risk continuing the tradition of
meeting with the Dalai Lama and, if so, what sort of meeting to grant
the monk.

China will oppose any contact between Obama and the Dalai Lama. But
Douglas Paal, a former senior Asia adviser for Presidents Ronald Reagan
and George H.W. Bush, said, "How badly they react to a meeting depends
on what the overall state relations are in."

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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