WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will receive the Dalai Lama today in the Map Room of the White House instead of the Oval Office, not one-on-one but in a group, and then will leave town without a joint appearance before television cameras.
Pointedly employing no protocol that implies head-of-state status for the Tibetan leader-in-exile, the White House also is being explicit about its invitation: Obama meets the Dalai Lama as an "internationally respected religious leader and spokesman for Tibetan rights." The details of the visit, along with its timing, follow months of conversations with representatives of the Tibetan spiritual leader and are carefully crafted to convey respect while not breaking with previous practice — or brazenly aggravating Chinese leaders, already put out that the meeting is happening at all.
The White House has given notice of its plans to the Chinese, who consider the Dalai Lama a separatist seeking independence for the Tibetan region within China. The Obama administration has been seeking Chinese cooperation on such issues as climate change and sanctions on Iran.