President Obama met with the Dalai Lama on Friday, in a move that aroused Chinese protests.
The meeting of the two Nobel Peace Prize winners was condemned by the Chinese foreign ministry, whose spokesperson, Hua Chunying, declared, “The U.S. leader’s planned meeting with Dalai is a gross interference in China’s domestic politics.… It is a severe violation of the principles of international relations. It will inflict grave damages upon the China-U.S. relationship.”
The meeting occurs against a backdrop of growing tensions between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Chinese declaration of an air defense identification zone over disputed portions of the East China Sea drew condemnation from the White House. In December, a Chinese ship nearly caused a collision with the American cruiser USS Cowpens in the South China Sea.
This was followed by testimony from Assistant Secretary of State Danny Russel rejecting China’s expansive claims to the South China Sea. Russel told Congress, “Any Chinese claim to maritime rights not based on claimed land features would be inconsistent with international law. China could highlight its respect for international law by clarifying or adjusting its claim to bring it into accordance with international law of the sea.”
President Obama’s decision to meet with the Dalai Lama sustains a long-standing bipartisan policy of American Presidents meeting the Tibetan spiritual leader and should be commended. It is important that the PRC understand that the President of the United States will meet with whomever he wants wherever and whenever he wants.