BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China warned President Barack Obama on Wednesday that a meeting with the Dalai Lama would further erode ties between the two powers, already troubled by Washington's arms sales to Taiwan.
The White House confirmed on Tuesday that Obama would meet the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, reviled by Beijing as a separatist for seeking self-rule for his mountainous homeland.
China's angry response reflected deepening tension between the world's biggest and third-biggest economies, with Beijing noting that President Hu Jintao himself urged Obama not to meet the exiled Tibetan leader.
During a summit with Obama in Beijing in November, Hu "explained China's stern position of resolutely opposing any government leaders and officials meeting the Dalai," said Ma Zhaoxu, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.
"We urge the U.S. to fully grasp the high sensitivity of the Tibetan issues, to prudently and appropriately deal with related matters, and avoid bringing further damage to China-U.S. relations."
The White House shrugged off Beijing's earlier warnings about the meeting, which may happen as early as this month.
China's ire at the U.S. announcement was predictable, as was the White House's confirmation of the meeting, which has long been flagged.