Bush's Private Meeting

Mark Knoller is a White House Correspondent for CBS News.
Much to the irritation of China, today marks the fourth time President Bush is meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Leaders in Beijing view it as American interference in China's internal political affairs because of the Dalai Lama's criticism of Chinese oppression in Tibet.

"We understand the concerns of the Chinese," Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto said this morning, though he denied the U.S. was meddling.

(White House/CBS)
So as not to rub China's nose in it, the President's meeting is not listed on his public schedule today. The get-together was taking place behind closed doors in the White House residence. There's no photo-op for the press, and unlike previous meetings, there'll be no release of a White House photo, as was the case on November 9, 2005.

But Mr. Bush will be seen in public with the Dalai Lama tomorrow in the Capitol Rotunda, at a ceremony bestowing a Congressional Gold Medal on the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

It looks to China as if the U.S. is taking sides with those calling for Tibetan independence, even though the official U.S. position recognizes Tibet as part of China.

And when President Bush visited Beijing in November 2005, he said he tried to make that clear to his hosts.

"I thought it would be wise for the Chinese government to invite the Dalai Lama so he can tell them exactly what he told me in the White House the other day, that he has no desire for an independent Tibet," Mr. Bush told reporters.

One can only wonder if China would try to get back at Pres. Bush by staging it's own meeting with another Nobel Peace Prize winner: Al Gore.

Ironically, the diplomatic snit with China takes place as the White House is urging the House of Representatives not to pass that Armenian Genocide resolution because of objections from Turkey, a U.S. ally in NATO.

How easy it is to hurt some governments' feelings.

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.