By Ralph Jennings and Lucy Hornby Ralph Jennings And Lucy Hornby – 1 hr 55 mins ago
TAIPEI/BEIJING (Reuters) – China promptly denounced a proposed trip to Taiwan by the Dalai Lama on Thursday, saying any such visit by a man Beijing brands a separatist threatened to "sabotage" improving relations.
Taiwan, a self-ruled island claimed by Beijing, approved the visit by the Nobel Peace laureate to comfort victims of a deadly typhoon at a time of burgeoning trade and investment between the rivals.
"No matter under what form or identity Dalai uses to enter Taiwan, we resolutely oppose this," China's Taiwan Affairs Bureau said in a statement carried by Xinhua news agency.
"Some of the people in the Democratic Progressive Party use the disaster rescue excuse to invite Dalai to Taiwan to sabotage the hard-earned positive situation of cross-straits relations."
Beijing brands the India-based Tibetan luminary as a separatist and condemns his trips abroad.
An aide to the Dalai Lama in the Indian town of Dharamsala said the spiritual leader had been keen to visit Taiwan.
"As of now, we are planning a visit to Taiwan and the dates are still being worked out," Tenzin Taklha said. "We want to make it very clear that the Dalai Lama is visiting Taiwan to express condolences to victims and lead prayers."
China is considered unlikely to retaliate by choking off growing economic ties between the long-time political rivals.
By blaming the opposition DPP and not Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou or the ruling Nationalist Party (KMT), Beijing may have indicated it does not wish to escalate the issue.