The White House is rejecting a demand from China that a meeting next week between U.S. President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, be canceled.
A spokesman for the president said the meeting at the White House will "take place as planned next Thursday" February 18.
A statement issued in Beijing on Friday by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said China "firmly opposes" the visit by the Dalai Lama and called on the United States to "immediately withdraw" the invitation.
Ma indicated the meeting could further damage U.S.-Chinese relations, which have recently been strained by planned U.S. arm sales to Taiwan, disagreements over China's currency exchange rate and U.S. concerns over Chinese Internet censorship.
Previous U.S. presidents, including Mr. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, have received the Dalai Lama. Thursday's meeting will take place in the White House Map Room and not the Oval Office, where foreign government leaders and dignitaries are generally welcomed.
The Dalai Lama visited the United States in October. But Mr. Obama decided to wait to meet with him until after the U.S. president's November trip to China.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He says he is not seeking independence for Tibet, just greater autonomy.