US honors Dalai Lama amid protest

08:48, February 21, 2010      

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Escalating tensions between China and the US, provoked by a recent series of disputes, have aroused concern that their cooperation on global economic and security issues will be made more difficult.

International observers are rushing to explain the widening rift between the two powers. Some noted that they have different items at the top of their foreign policy agendas; others argued that the state of relations resembles the symptoms of disorder – sudden and dramatic swings between euphoria and depression.

The dispute over the Dalai Lama's meeting with US President Barack Obama on Wednesday is the latest sign of depression in bilateral relations. One day after the low-key encounter at the White House, in defiance of China's protests, the National Endowment for Democracy, funded by the US Congress, gave the Dalai Lama a medallion for supporting "a democratic government in exile."

The move goes against with the While House's suggestion that Obama received the Dalai Lama as a religious leader rather than as a political leader.

After China summoned US Ambassador to Beijing Jon Huntsman in order to lodge a protest against the meeting, US State Department spokesman Phillip J. Crowley responded Friday that "we just agree to disagree" on this issue, and that the meeting was part of a longstanding US dialogue with the exiled Tibetan monk.

While brushing aside China's protests, Crowley said the US has called on China to carry out a thorough review of the Google cyber attacks, and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has directly engaged with the Chinese foreign minister on this issue.

"Some of the computer codes used in the recent attacks on the networks of Google and dozens of other major US companies were developed by a diverse group of Chinese hackers, including security professionals, consultants and temporary contractors, according to an industry source," the Washington Post reported Saturday.

The cyber attack accusation, first launched by Google on January 12, quickly became a diplomatic issue after many American media implied links to the Chinese government. The Wall Street Journal called China the "People's Republic of Hacking" in an article Friday.

China has repeatedly denied that it is a haven for hackers.

But the Obama administration's recent announcement of a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan provoked the strongest reaction from China. With protests lodged by five major government departments, Beijing also halted military and security contacts with Washington, and threatened to impose sanctions on US firms engaged in arms production.

National Public Radio said Friday that recent disputes between the two countries – over climate change, Iran, cyber attacks, currency valuation, Taiwan and the Dalai Lama – involve just about every agency of the US administration, but just the Pentagon has been singled out for punishment.

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