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China protests Obama meeting with the Dalai Lama

China protested President Barack Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama in strong terms Friday, saying it "seriously harms" bilateral relations and demanding the U.S. take steps to improve ties, the Associated Press reports.

Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai summoned U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman to lodge a "solemn representation" over Thursday's meeting at the White House, which Beijing called an interference in Chinese domestic affairs, the AP reports.

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"The behavior of the U.S. side seriously interferes in China's internal politics, seriously hurts the national feelings of the Chinese people and seriously harms U.S.-China relations," a Foreign Ministry statement said, quoting spokesman Ma Zhaoxu.

The meeting was seen as another test of rocky ties between Beijing and Washington, strained in recent weeks by issues ranging from Taiwan arms sales to cyber-spying allegations.

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But the Foreign Ministry protest echoed Beijing's response to previous U.S. presidential meetings with the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader and does not necessarily reflect a serious breach in ties. The White House gave the Dalai Lama relatively low-profile treatment, staging the meeting in the Map Room, a less prominent venue than the Oval Office. And despite recent diplomatic spats with Washington, Beijing also wants to maintain healthy relations.

Ma's statement said China demands "the U.S. side seriously consider China's stance, immediately adopt measures to wipe out the baneful impact and stop conniving and supporting anti-China separatist forces that seek Tibet independence."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs released a statement about the meeting on Thursday.

"The President stated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People's Republic of China," Gibbs said. "The President commended the Dalai Lama's 'Middle Way' approach, his commitment to nonviolence and his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government. The President stressed that he has consistently encouraged both sides to engage in direct dialogue to resolve differences and was pleased to hear about the recent resumption of talks. The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of a positive and cooperative relationship between the United States and China."

Read the Associated Press story.


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