While making a short stop in Japan on his way to the United States, Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama reaffirmed China's right to host the Olympic Games. Nathalie Tourret reports from Tokyo.
The Dalai Lama reiterated Thursday that he backed China's right to host the Olympic Games, as he started his first foreign trip since unrest broke out in Tibet.
"I support the Chinese host for the world game because China is the most populous nation, ancient nation," the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader told reporters near Tokyo's main international airport.
"They really deserve" the Olympics, he said.
"In spite of the unfortunate event in Tibet, my position has not changed," he said.
The Dalai Lama was making a stopover in Japan on his way to the United States, where he is due to give a series of lectures on spirituality.
Meeting with Japan's former First Lady
The Dalai Lama met with Japan's former first lady as he started his first foreign trip since protests in Tibet a month ago set off an international furore.
Tibet's spiritual leader, who has lived in exile in India for nearly 50 years, was on a short stopover in Japan on his way to Seattle, where he will start a series of lectures in the United States on faith.
He smiled, said hello and put his hands together in a traditional Buddhist greeting as several dozen supporters cheered him on at Narita airport near Tokyo, holding Tibetan flags and signs reading, "Free Tibet -- We are friends."
"I'm here to show support from the bottom of my heart for the Dalai Lama and Tibet," said Kumi Shimada, 39, of Tokyo, who waited at a hotel where the Tibetan leader was later to give a press conference.
"It's okay even if I can't meet His Holiness. I just want to encourage him," she said.
The Dalai Lama met at the hotel with Akie Abe, the wife of conservative former prime minister Shinzo Abe who stepped down last year. But he will not meet officials, said the spokesman for the Japanese government.
"Government officials have no plan to meet with him. I have also not heard that the Dalai Lama expressed a desire for a meeting," Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told reporters.
The Dalai Lama has frequently visited Japan, where his lectures on religious matters enjoy a wide following, and often transits through Narita on his way to North America.
But Japanese leaders, unlike many of their Western counterparts, have almost always refused to meet with the Dalai Lama, whose frequent world travels are opposed by China.
Japan has had uneasy ties with China due in part to the legacy of Japanese aggression in the 1930s. But Japan has been working to reconcile with China, its largest commercial partner, in a process launched by Abe in 2006.
The Dalai Lama's previously scheduled trip to North America comes amid high tension after the biggest demonstrations in nearly 20 years in Tibet against China's controversial rule.
Tibetan supporters have protested during the international torch relay for the Beijing Olympics, with the procession shortened on Wednesday in San Francisco.
Shinji Hirata, who lives in suburban Chiba prefecture around the airport, said he came to "tell the press and His Holiness that people in Japan also support Tibet."
"Despite the significance of what has happened, I still feel that Japanese media aren't covering Tibet substantially. I guess they show consideration to what China says," Hirata said.
Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking to split Tibet from China, whose troops overran the predominantly Buddhist Himalayan territory in 1951.
The Dalai Lama says he is seeking autonomy within China and opposes the use of violence.
Tibet last month saw the biggest protests in years on the anniversary of a 1959 uprising that sent the Dalai Lama fleeing into exile in India.
Date created : 2008-04-10