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Dalai Lama to visit Japan; no meetings with top officials

November 16, 2007

The Associated Press
As published in International Herald Tribune
Monday, November 12, 2007

TOKYO: The Dalai Lama will visit Japan this week, organizers said 
Monday, despite China's protests over other trips overseas by the 
Tibetan religious leader.

But top government officials are not expected to meet with the 72-
year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate during a nine-day trip starting 
Thursday, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The monk was instead slated to attend a Buddhist conference in 
Yokohama, just west of Tokyo, give a speech at a university in the 
western city of Ise and visit a high school in the capital, according 
to a statement released by organizers of his visit on Monday.

Though lauded in much of the world as a figure of moral authority, 
Beijing demonizes the Buddhist monk and says he seeks to destroy 
China's sovereignty by pushing for independence for Tibet.

China has ruled mountainous Tibet with a heavy hand since its 
Communist-led forces invaded in 1951.

The Dalai Lama, who lives with followers in exile in India, says he 
wants "real autonomy" for Tibet, not independence. Still, Beijing has 
routinely criticized his frequent visits abroad, saying foreign 
governments are interfering in its internal affairs by hosting him.

The religious leader's recent meetings with Canadian Prime Minister 
Stephen Harper, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President 
George W. Bush have drawn rebukes from Chinese officials.

Japan, meanwhile, has been trying to heal frayed relations with its 
communist neighbor. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a fence-
mending visit to Japan's former World War II enemy last year, and 
Chinese premier Wen Jiabao reciprocated with a visit in April.
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