US President Barack Obama met with the Dalai Lama at the White House on Friday, in a move that drew harsh criticism from China.
"The president is currently meeting w/His Holiness the @DalaiLama in his capacity as an internationally respected religious & cultural leader," the National Security Council said on Twitter.
The meeting was held in the White House Map Room on the ground floor of the president's residence instead of the Oval Office, which Obama usually uses to meet foreign leaders and visiting dignitaries.
The Chinese government views the Dalai Lama as a separatist seeking to establish an independent Tibet. He has been living in exile ever since 1959.
Earlier in the day, China's Foreign Ministry urged the Dalai Lama's planned visit be cancelled, warning that it threatened bilateral ties with the United States.
"The United States' arrangement for its leader to meet the Dalai would be a gross interference in China's internal affairs and is a serious violation of the norms of international relations," Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry, said in a statement.
"It will seriously damage Sino-US relations. We urge the United States to take seriously China's concerns, immediately cancel plans for the US leader to meet the Dalai, do not facilitate and provide a platform for Dalai's anti-China separatist activities in the United States," she said.
The meeting was held at a sensitive time for Sino-US relations. The United States has expressed concern about China's increasingly assertive behaviour in the East China Sea and South China Sea and Obama's US strategic pivot, or rebalancing, toward Asia, is seen as a reaction to the growing clout of China.
At the same time, both countries are increasingly inter-dependent and have to cooperate on international issues such as Iran and North Korea. China is also the United States' biggest foreign creditor. As of July 31, China held $1.28 trillion in US Treasury bonds, according to Treasury Department data.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)
Original headline: USA-CHINA - Obama meets Dalai Lama despite criticism from China
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