(Reuters) - President Barack Obama will meet exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama at the White House on Friday in a show of concern about China's human rights practices.
Obama's midmorning session with the Dalai Lama may well draw a reprimand from China, which views him as a violent separatist because he seeks more autonomy for Tibet.
In what appeared to be a small concession to the Chinese, Obama will see the Dalai Lama in the White House Map Room, a historically important room but of less significance than the Oval Office, the president's inner sanctum.
But the fact the meeting is taking place at all reflects U.S. concerns about a wide range of Chinese activities from human rights practices to territorial tensions in the East China Sea. Obama's U.S. strategic pivot, or rebalancing, toward Asia is seen as a reaction to the growing clout of China.
The White House views the Dalai Lama as "an internationally respected religious and cultural leader" and noted Obama had met with him twice before, in February 2010 and July 2011.
A senior Chinese official vowed this week to ignore foreign pressure on human rights, and said foreign leaders who meet with the Dalai Lama should "pay a price" for it.
The United States recognizes Tibet as part of China and does not support Tibetan independence, but supports the Dalai Lama's approach for more autonomy, said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.
"We are concerned about continuing tensions and the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China," Hayden said.
"We will continue to urge the Chinese government to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions, as a means to reduce tensions," Hayden said in a statement announcing the 10 a.m.(1500 GMT) meeting.
The United States has also been concerned about a territorial dispute between China and Japan over a remote chain of islands in the East China Sea. Washington has vowed to ignore an air defense zone declared over the area by Beijing.
The White House is expected to issue a statement about the meeting after it takes place.
The Dalai Lama was in Washington on Thursday meeting with the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative organization.
Source Credit: The Reuters