Taiwan's president, Ma Ying-jeou, says the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, will be welcome for a visit to the island when the time is right.
President Ma Friday defended his earlier decision to deny the Dalai Lama permission to visit Taiwan next year. He told a group of visiting Italian politicians that now is not the best time for such a visit. But he added that Taiwan has been friendly to the Dalai Lama, and that it will welcome him for religious activities again when the timing is appropriate. He did not elaborate.
The president has been criticized for saying Wednesday that the Tibetan spiritual leader would not visit the island next year as Taiwan works on improving relations with Beijing.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 during a civil war, but Beijing insists the self-ruled island is part of its territory. Tensions between the two sides have eased since Mr. Ma took office in May and began promoting closer economic ties.
Mr. Ma's decision to block the Dalai Lama's visit is apparently aimed at pleasing China. Beijing accuses the exiled spiritual leader of advocating Tibet's independence -- something he denies.
The Dalai Lama has visited Taiwan twice before, in 1997 and again in 2002.Taiwan's president, Ma Ying-jeou, says the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, will be welcome for a visit to the island when the time is right.