WASHINGTON — Months after he postponed their first meeting in a gesture to China, President Obama will sit down today at the White House with the Dalai Lama — two Nobel Peace Prize winners with a mutual interest in coaxing changes from the Chinese and keeping peace in the region.
The men will meet privately in the Map Room and an official photo will be released, said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, but the leaders will not make a public appearance or jointly answer questions.
For the Dalai Lama, the meeting nevertheless adds pressure on China to grant Tibet greater autonomy. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of Tibet's failed uprising against Chinese rule and the Buddhist spiritual leader's exile to India.
The Dalai Lama, who advocates nonviolence, isn't seeking Tibet's independence but wants the Chinese to agree to negotiate what he calls a "middle way" with more autonomy. The White House meeting also could prompt leaders of other nations to meet with the Dalai Lama to that end.
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For Obama, the meeting is a chance to reassure both human rights advocates and foreign-policy hawks that he'll stand up to the Chinese when need be, and that the U.S. still is committed to protecting freedoms for ethnic and religious minorities.
Obama drew criticism from both camps last year when he declined to meet with the Dalai Lama because Obama was preparing for an official visit to China, which took place in November.