US President Barack Obama met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, at the White House on Wednesday despite a warning by China that it would damage diplomatic relations.
The meeting came at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and China over Beijing's assertive pursuit of territorial claims in East Asia.
Obama's fourth White House meeting with the Dalai Lama in the past eight years took place in the residence area of White House, instead of the Oval Office. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the choice of the residence emphasized the “personal” nature of their meeting.
He said Obama thanked the Dalai Lama for his condolences for the victims of Sunday's mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Earnest further added that Obama had in the past spoken of his "warm personal feelings" for the Dalai Lama, appreciation of his teachings and belief in preserving Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions.
Earnest also said the US position of considering Tibet part of China had not changed. In an interview with Fox News later on Wednesday, the Dalai Lama said he and Obama talked about the current situation in Tibet.
He denied he was seeking independence and that it was in Tibet's interests to remain part of China, "provided we should have full right for preservation of our own culture, rich Buddhist knowledge and philosophies etc."
The Dalai Lama also quoted in the interview that Chinese President Xi Jinping had said Buddhism was an important part of Chinese culture.