China protests over Dalai Lama visit

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The Independent Online

China said yesterday that President Barack Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama "seriously harms US-China relations", but the way the two countries have handled the White House visit indicates that both would rather avoid a major crisis.

Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai summoned the US ambassador, Jon Huntsman, for a meeting Beijing and lodged a "solemn representation" over Thursday's White House. "The behaviour of the US side seriously interferes in China's internal politics, seriously hurts the national feelings of the Chinese people and seriously harms US-China relations," a Foreign Ministry statement said, quoting a spokesman, Ma Zhaoxu.

The meeting was seen as another test of relations between Beijing and Washington, which have become strained in recent weeks by issues ranging from Taiwan arms sales to cyber-spying allegations. But the statement echoed Beijing's response to previous US presidential meetings with the Buddhist leader, who escaped Tibet in 1959.

And in one of the clearest indications that China wants to avoid a crisis, Beijing on Wednesday allowed five US warships to make a call in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong. China has cancelled such visits in the past to show its displeasure at Washington's actions.

For its part, the White House gave the Dalai Lama relatively low-profile treatment, holding the meeting in the Map Room, a less prominent venue than the Oval Office. There was no welcome fanfare, and President Obama made no public comments.

The Chinese President, Hu Jintao, is expected to visit the US this year, and both sides soon will hold another round of their high-level Strategic and Economic Dialogue.