The recent US arms deal with Taiwan already had angered China, as did the US backing up Google’s decision not to censor Web content for the Chinese people. Now, the President is vowing to meet with the Dalai Lama, further angering the Chinese (although there is a middle ground in there, see if you can find it).

President Barack Obama still plans to fulfill his pledge to meet with the Dalai Lama in the coming months, White House officials said Tuesday, even though the meeting threatens to freeze already chilly relations between the United States and China.

While Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton declined to say when that meeting might occur, he told reporters the Dalai Lama is “an internationally respected religious and cultural leader.” He added the White House would announce a date for the meet “as it comes closer.”

“To be clear, the U.S. considers Tibet to be a part of China,” Burton added. “We have human rights concerns about the treatment of Tibetans. We urge the government of China to protect the unique cultural and religious traditions of Tibet.”

Obama has already cancelled a meeting with the Dalai Lama back in October, so I want to see the follow-through here. But there’s undoubtedly a new tension to the US relationship with China. I’m not sure where it’s coming from. But I’d rather have the President stake out territory for human rights and against state-sponsored repression.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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