China warns U.S. against Dalai Lama meeting

China warns that U.S. President Barack Obama's plans to meet exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama would harm relations between the two superpowers.

China warned Tuesday that President Barack Obama's plans to meet exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama would harm relations between the two superpowers.

The warning, from an official in charge of recent talks with the Dalai Lama's representatives, comes ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's anticipated visit to the United States, possibly in April.

The Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, appears with actor Richard Gere at a news conference in New York City on Aug. 12, 2009. ((Mike Segar/Reuters) )

And it comes after China has already expressed its displeasure over the U.S. announcement Friday that it planned to sell $6.4 billion U.S. worth of arms to Taiwan.

Zhu Weiqun, executive deputy head of the Communist Party's United Front Work Department, said any meeting between the U.S. leader and the Dalai Lama would "seriously undermine the political foundation of Sino-U.S. relations."

China has ruled Tibet since 1951 after sending in troops to the Himalayan region the previous year, and has accused the Dalai Lama as the head of a separatist group. The Dalai Lama has maintained for decades he wants some form of autonomy for Tibetans to freely practise their culture, language and religion, but has not advocated independence.

U.S. officials have signalled in recent weeks that Obama might soon meet the exiled Tibetan leader, but the timing of a meeting has not been established.

Zhu did not specify what action if any China might take in response to a meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama.

"We will take corresponding measures to make the relevant countries realize their mistakes," he said at a news conference in Beijing.

Anger over Taiwan arms deal

A spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry also repeated China's protests over the U.S. arms sale to Taiwan, the self-governing territory China claims as its own.

The United States does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation, but the U.S. government says it's bound by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act to ensure the island is capable of responding to Chinese threats. China has more than 1,000 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan.

"The U.S., heedless of China's resolute opposition, insisted on announcing its arms sales package to Taiwan. This seriously damages China's core interests, as well as China-U.S. relations," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

China had already stated on Saturday that it was suspending military exchanges with the United States as a result of the sale and threatened sanctions against the U.S. companies involved, which include Boeing Co., United Technologies Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co.