Obama-Dalai Lama meeting could cool ties

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 July, 2011, 12:00am
 

The on-again, off-again relationship between Beijing and Washington has been put to the test once more by US President Barack Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama at the White House on Saturday.

China slammed the United States yesterday in an outburst that analysts said could herald a cooling off in bilateral ties in the near term - including possible delays in reciprocal visits by the two countries' vice-presidents.

'Such an act has grossly interfered in China's internal affairs, hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and damaged Sino-American relations,' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said on the ministry's website yesterday.

'We demand the US side seriously consider China's stance, immediately adopt measures to wipe out the baneful impact, stop interfering in China's internal affairs and cease to connive and support anti-China separatist forces that seek 'Tibetan independence,'' Ma said.

The strident statement came hours after Obama's meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

Jin Canrong, a US affairs expert at Renmin University, said Sino-US relations were likely to be affected in the short term.

'The meeting may lead to the suspension or delay of high-level official exchanges, such as planned mutual visits by vice-presidents,' Jin said.

A separate statement on the ministry's website said Vice-Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai had 'urgently summoned' Robert Wang, charge d'affaires at the US embassy in Beijing, to convey China's objections to the meeting.

China's ambassador to the United States, Zhang Yesui, also made solemn representations to Washington, Xinhua reported.

A Chinese diplomat said the meeting would cause more damage than Obama's previous meeting with his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate, because it had breached the 'strategic mutual trust' Obama and President Hu Jintao agreed on during Hu's visit to the US this year. Their tacit agreement, the diplomat said, suggested advance communication and consultation on issues related to each other's 'core interest'.

The diplomat said that while the White House had briefed China in advance about Obama's previous meeting with the Dalai Lama, it did not do so this time. The two men last met in February last year after the White House had decided to approve arms sales for Taiwan, resulting in a tension-filled year. Relations got back on track only in January when Hu visited Washington.

Obama's latest meeting with the Dalai Lama came less than 10 days before US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to visit Shenzhen and meet State Councillor Dai Bingguo , Beijing's top foreign policy official.

US Vice-President Joseph Biden is also scheduled to visit China this summer, followed by a trip to Washington by his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

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