WASHINGTON U.S. President Barack Obama met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, at the White House on Wednesday in spite of a warning by China that this would damage diplomatic ties, a White House official said.
The meeting was due to take place in the White House Map Room, where diplomatic functions are often held, instead of the Oval Office where the president normally meets world leaders.
A White House official confirmed the meeting had taken place, but gave no other details.
China's Foreign Ministry said earlier it had lodged diplomatic representations with the United States over the planned meeting, saying it would damage Chinese-U.S. ties.
China considers the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader a dangerous separatist, and ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing the meeting would encourage "separatist forces".
The meeting comes at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and China over Beijing’s assertive pursuit of territorial claims in East Asia.
Obama met the Dalai Lama at the White House when the latter visited Washington in 2014 and angered China then when he vowed "strong support" for Tibetans' human rights.
Lu said China urged the United States to abide by its promises to recognize that Tibet is part of China and cease any support for Tibet independence.
The Dalai Lama, who fled from Tibet into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, says he wants genuine autonomy for Tibet, not independence.
The Dalai Lama told Reuters on Monday that Obama was "a long-time friend" whom he admired for his work to normalize relations with Cuba, and on Iran, and for his recent visits to former U.S. foe Vietnam and the site of the Hiroshima atomic bombing in Japan.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)
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