Dalai Lama Meets with Obama to 'Show My Respect'

July 18, 2011 - 7:44 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Dalai Lama is defending his weekend visit with President Barack Obama, saying he was gratified "to show an old friend's face."

The Chinese government slammed the administration for the meeting Obama had with the Tibetan spiritual leader on Saturday, saying it would damage Chinese-American relations.

But in an interview broadcast Monday on NBC's "Today" show, the Dalai Lama said he considered it his duty to meet with the president "to show my respect. We really have a feeling of reunion."

China considers the Dalai Lama a separatist intent on ending Chinese rule over Tibet. Obama over the weekend reinforced with the Dalai Lama that the United States doesn't support Tibetan independence.

He also urged Americans to not get discouraged by the protracted national debate over the country's debt problems.

In the interview, the 76-year-old spiritual leader said he believes "a lot of resentment" is building within China toward the government. The Dalai Lama said he doesn't think China can buck a trend toward democracy around the world, saying the "whole world turning in one direction."

"China cannot go against that trend," he said, adding he believes the "voice of openness" is sweeping over China.

The Dalai Lama also said he "really felt some sense of relief" over Tibet's recent move toward abandonment of its 4-century-old monarchial tradition.