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February 6, 2010

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US-Dalai meeting carries risks

Just a week after enraging China with an arms sale package for Taiwan, US President Barack Obama risks more damage to this crucial relationship by agreeing to meet with the Dalai Lama in two weeks.

The truth is he has little choice. As Obama struggles to regain his footing after political setbacks, the last thing he needs is to open himself up to fresh criticism that he is kowtowing to China.

So on Thursday, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Obama will meet with the Dalai Lama when the Tibetan monk visits Washington on February 17-18.

China immediately urged the United States to scrap the meeting to avoid hurting bilateral ties and reiterated yesterday its "constant and clear" stance of opposing the monk's visit to the US.

"China resolutely opposes the visit by the Dalai Lama to the US and resolutely opposes US leaders having contact" with him, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of pushing for Tibetan independence and believes that shunning the exiled Tibetan monk should be a basic principle of international relations for countries that want to deal with China.

The announcement of Obama-Dalai meeting is the latest in a series of blows to a relationship that both countries consider the world's most important.

Already, China has threatened to punish US companies involved in any arms sales to Taiwan and has suspended military exchanges with Washington.

Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said in an interview with The Associated Press that China has been regularly pressing the United States on the Dalai Lama.


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