U.S. President Barack Obama received the Dalai Lama at the White House Thursday despite objections from China. During the talks, Obama expressed his support for Tibetan rights. China, which regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist, called the meeting a "violation of US policy on Tibet". Although the White House downplayed China's concerns, it organized a low-key meeting in the Map Room avoiding the symbolic power of the Oval Office.
"Not too many people meet the president at the White House wearing flip-flops, particularly in the freezing depths of February. But the Dalai Lama is no ordinary visitor, and not just because of his footwear.
Despite his relatively limited political influence, the impact of the Dalai Lama's presidential face-time resounds far beyond Washington. It provides a yardstick for measuring the administration's commitment to human rights, and for assessing its willingness to stand up to China.
So his visits to the White House are minutely choreographed with the understanding that how he is received here is at least as important as what is discussed behind closed doors.
President Bill Clinton was so wary of the possible Chinese repercussions that he chose never to have a formal meeting with the Dalai Lama, opting instead to "drop by" when the Dalai Lama was meeting other US officials.
George W Bush was somewhat more welcoming, becoming the first president to be filmed in public with the Dalai Lama. The obviously warm relationship between the two men when the president gave him the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007 infuriated the Chinese.
But even President Bush did not allow TV cameras into his White House meetings with the Dalai Lama, a step which would be even more antagonising to Beijing.
President Barack Obama seems to have opted for something in between those two approaches.
He met the Dalai Lama in the Map Room of the White House, avoiding the obvious symbolism of the Oval Office. A single photograph was released of the two of them, but the TV cameras were kept well away."
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New York Times