President Barack Obama will meet the Dalai Lama at the White House today, in a move likely to enrage China, which sees the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader as a separatist.
Obama’s official schedule indicated that the pair, who have met before several times, would talk behind closed doors in the Map Room at 10:15 am (local time). The president usually speaks with dignitaries in the Oval Office.
They last met in the same room in February 2014, though they have had encounters since. Beijing has routinely accused Washington of meddling in its domestic affairs after such encounters.
China says the Dalai Lama is seeking to split Tibet from the rest of China and calls him a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” But the spiritual leader has pressed more for Tibetan autonomy rather than outright independence. Beijing vigorously lobbies against foreign leaders meeting the Dalai Lama “in any form.”
Many Tibetans say China in turn is repressing their Buddhist religion and culture, and preventing them from benefiting from the region’s economic development. Since becoming president, Obama has made a “pivot to Asia” a cornerstone of his foreign policy.
Although the meeting will certainly draw China’s ire, the concrete consequences remain unclear. The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959 after a failed uprising in Tibet.