WASHINGTON - President Obama met the Dalai Lama on Friday despite fierce objections from China that the meeting would damage the U.S.-Sino relationship.
The exiled Tibetan leader met Obama at the White House for the third time during Obama's presidency.
The two met in the less significant Map Room—not the Oval Office. And the White House, as it has in the past when Dalai Lama has visited, did not allow for journalists to chronicle the two men interacting as the administration often does when the president meets with important visitors.
The White House, however, posted a photo of the Dalai Lama and Obama's meeting today on it's official flickr account.
Ahead of the visit, the White House underscored that it continues to recognize Tibet as part of China, while at the same time raising concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in the Tibetan areas of China.
"The President stressed that he encourages direct dialogue to resolve long-standing differences and that a dialogue that produces results would be positive for China and Tibetans," the White House said in a statement following the meeting. "In this context, the President reiterated the U.S. position that Tibet is part of the People's Republic of China and that the United States does not support Tibet independence.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Obama would meet the Dalai Lama "in his capacity as an internationally respected religious and cultural leader."
"The United States supports the Dalai Lama's 'Middle Way' approach of neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans in China," Hayden said in a statement. "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.
Just hours after the White House announced on Thursday that the meeting would take place, China's foreign ministry issued a statement that warned the meeting "will grossly interfere in the internal affairs of China, seriously violate norms governing international relations and severely impair China-U.S. relations."
Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying reiterated those remarks at a regular press conference Friday in Beijing.
Beijing often refers to the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile since 1959, as a "wolf in sheep's clothing" and suggest that he quietly condones the use of violent means to establish an independent Tibet. The Dalai Lama says he wants autonomy for Tibet, and respect of human rights from the Chinese.
And the White House said on Friday that the Dalai Lama reiterated that "he is not seeking independence for Tibet and hopes that dialogue between his representatives and the Chinese government will resume."
Hayden said ahead of the meeting that the Obama administration remains "concerned about continuing tensions and the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China."