- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, is scheduled for a White House meeting Thursday with President Obama.

The exiled monk visited Washington last fall without meeting the president, purportedly because the Obama administration didn’t want to complicate a summit the following month in China with President Hu Jintao.

Human Rights advocates welcome the meeting today between the two Nobel Peace Prize laureates. However, it could increase tension between the U.S. and China, which invaded Tibet in 1950.

The U.S. wants China’s help with such major, global issues as the economic crisis, climate change and nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea.

The relationship was strained last month when the Obama administration announced a $6.4 billion arms deal with Taiwan, which neighboring China called a threat to its national security. In addition, the U.S. recently has been critical of China for its Internet censorship.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959, after a failed uprising against Chinese troops. The 74-year-old monk now lives in Dharamsala, India, home of Tibet’s exiled government.

Beijing has said the 14th Dalai Lama continues to push for Tibetan independence. The Dalai Lima has said he wants only some autonomy for Tibetan residents.

Until last fall, the Dalai Lima had met with a U.S. president in every visit since 1991. His most recent visit before last fall was in 2007 when he met publicly with President George W. Bush, who awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The meeting today is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. and is closed to the press. It will take place in the White House’s Map Room, compared to the more formal Oval Office. The White House says it will release an official photo of the meeting on www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse.

The meeting is the first stop in the Dalai Lama’s cross-county trip that includes speeches in California and Florida.

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