REVIEW & OUTLOOK OCTOBER 6, 2009
No Time for the Dalai Lama
Obama is willing to anger China on tire tariffs but not on Tibet.
In nearly nine months in office, President Obama has found time to meet with Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega and Vladimir Putin. But this week he won’t see the Dalai Lama, a peaceful religious leader who has long been a friend to the U.S. and an advocate of human rights for China’s six million Tibetans.
Mr. Obama’s slight is the first time a sitting president will not meet with the Dalai Lama during a Washington visit since President George H.W. Bush met with him in 1991. No meeting was ever formally on the agenda for this week, but the exiled Tibetan’s trip had been planned for years, and earlier this year he had expressed his hope to meet with the President. Last month, White House aide Valerie Jarrett and Maria Otero, undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs, traveled to Dharamsala to confer with the Dalai Lama. The next day, the Dalai Lama’s office announced that he hoped to meet with Mr. Obama only after November, when Mr. Obama will visit Beijing.
As a White House official explained: “Both the Dalai Lama and we agree that a stable and positive U.S.-China relationship will help advance progress on the Tibet issue, and that a meeting after the President’s trip would further the likelihood of making progress on Tibetan issues.” In other words, not offending Chinese President Hu Jintao is a higher U.S. priority, at least on Tibet. By contrast, Mr. Obama was more than willing to risk offending China by imposing tariffs on Chinese tires last month to please his union supporters.