China has urged the United States to cancel a scheduled meeting between President Barack Obama and exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama at the White House today, saying such a meeting would harm U.S.-China relations.
The White House announced on July 15 that Obama would speak with the Dalai Lama about Tibet in their first meeting in more than a year.
The announcement upset China, which was already on edge about the Dalai Lama's meetings with U.S. congressional leaders and the potential for a U.S. debt default.
"This meeting underscores the president's strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans," the White House said in a statement.
It also says the president will highlight his enduring support for dialogue between the Dalai Lama's representatives and the Chinese government to resolve differences.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement on the ministry's website: "We firmly oppose any senior foreign government officials meeting with the Dalai Lama in any way."
Hong said China called on the United States to "cancel the decision for Obama to meet the Dalai Lama as soon as possible, and not do anything that could interfere with China's internal affairs or harm China-U.S. relations."
Tibet has been a source of controversy for decades, since Beijing sent troops to occupy the country following the 1949 communist revolution. It insists the region has been part of Chinese territory for centuries, a claim disputed by many Tibetans.
A failed uprising in 1959 led the Dalai Lama to flee into exile in India.
compiled from agency reports