WASHINGTON — President Obama met with the Dalai Lama on Thursday, welcoming the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader to the White House for a low-profile meeting that nonetheless raised the hackles of China.
The two men spoke about democracy, human rights and the need to preserve Tibet’s religious identity and culture — all issues that, predictably, irritated Beijing.
In a written statement, the White House said Mr. Obama had expressed support for the preservation of Tibet’s “unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China.”
The meeting, which the White House put off last year so as not to interfere with Mr. Obama’s trip to Beijing in November, is the latest evidence of the more muscular posture that the Obama administration has been adopting with China, after a year in which China has taken a firm stance in its relations with the United States on a number of issues.
Last month, the administration announced a $6 billion arms sales package to Taiwan, infuriating Chinese officials.
The meeting on Thursday between Mr. Obama and Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, did not please Chinese officials, either.
China, which regards the Dalai Lama as an advocate of Tibetan independence, said that it was “strongly dissatisfied” and that it expected the United States to try to make amends.
On Friday, China accused Mr. Obama of “seriously damaging” ties between the two countries, the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Ma Zhaoxu, wrote in a statement posted on the ministry’s Web site.
China also summoned the American ambassador, Jon Huntsman, to lodge a formal complaint about the meeting at the White House, the statement online said.
While the White House took pains to avoid the appearance that this was a meeting between heads of state — it took place in the White House Map Room, not in the Oval Office — the Dalai Lama also met with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the State Department.