US plays down decision to honour Dalai Lama
Washington, (PTI): In the face of Chinese opposition, the US has played down its decision to honour the Dalai Lama, saying it regards the Tibetan leader only as "spiritual leader" of his people.
The Nobel laureate, who China regards as a "separatist", will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the US Congress' highest civilian honour, at Capitol Hill next Wednesday.
President George W Bush, who is scheduled to attend the award ceremony with his wife, will personally meet the Dalai Lama at the White House a day before the event.
A spokesperson for the Chinese government had earlier said Beijing was resolutely opposed to the awarding of the Medal to the Tibetan leader.
China is opposed to any country or person using the Dalai Lama issue to interfere in its internal affairs, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Liu Jianchao, said.
However, State Department Deputy spokesman, Tom Casey, said Friday that the US regards the Dalai Lama as a "spiritual leader of his people and someone who has inspired many individuals."
"As far as I know, there is nothing about the decision by the Congress to award this medal to him that changes that basic view," he said while admitting that China had raised the "issue" with Washington "from time to time.""But again, I think what our response generally is that we regard the Dalai Lama as a very important and significant spiritual leader and that is how we treat his visits here to the United States," Casey said.