Obama Meets With Dalai Lama Despite Warnings From China

The White House says President Obama met privately with the Dalai Lama Friday to discuss human rights practices in China.

Obama Meets With Dalai Lama Despite Warnings From China
The White House / Pete Souza

President Obama met with the Dalai Lama Friday morning despite warnings from China that it would "severely damage" relations between the two countries. 

The White House says President Obama met privately with the Dalai Lama Friday to discuss human rights practices in China. It will was the President's third such meeting with the spiritual leader, each drawing severe criticism from Beijing. (Via CNN)

A spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry says the arrangement was a "gross interference in China's internal affairs" and warned the U.S.: 

"Any country bent on impairing China's interests will find its own interests get hurt in the ... end, and its relationship with China will be damaged."

The Dalai Lama, who won a Nobel Peace prize in 1989, lives in exile — fleeing to India after a failed uprising in 1959. 

The Dalai Lama says he seeks a peaceful path to an autonomous Tibetan state; however, China calls the exiled spiritual leader a "wolf in sheep's clothing" who seeks to establish an independent Tibet through violent means. (Via BBC)

Beijing also accuses him of inspiring a series of grisly incidents over the past several years in which Tibetan Buddhists have set themselves on fire. 

CNN reports over the past five years "at least 125 Tibetans have set themselves on fire, most of them fatally, to protest Chinese rule." The Dalai Lama, however, denies involvement. 

Meetings between heads of state and the religious leader have sometimes heightened tensions between China and that country, and The Wall Street Journal explains a chill in Sino-U.S. relations could come at a tricky time. 

"The U.S. is seeking to play a calming role in a territorial dispute between China and Japan over ... islands in the East China Sea ... [and] are also contending with China's claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea."  

The White House played down the political aspect of the visit Friday morning, reaffirming its position that it does not support an independent Tibetan state.