U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is intending to visit China this year, his office said, acknowledging that his meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in 2012 caused tension.
Cameron has visited China once as premier, in November 2010, when he stopped on his way to a Group of 20 summit in Seoul. On that occasion, he refused a Chinese request to remove a poppy from his lapel, worn in memory of Britain’s war dead. The flower has a difference resonance in China, which lost two opium wars with Britain in the 19th century.
British prime ministers have tried to visit China about every two years, with previous trips in 2005 and 2008. Cameron’s spokesman, Christian Cubitt acknowledged “differences” between the U.K. and China today, saying the government aims to “manage” them “with respect.”
“The Chinese government always lobbies hard against any meetings between foreign governments and the Dalai Lama,” Cubitt told reporters in London. “We’ve made clear in advance that British ministers will decide whom they meet and when.”
China filed a formal diplomatic complaint with the U.K. after Cameron met the Dalai Lama in London in May last year, saying relations between the two countries had been “seriously damaged.”
The Dalai Lama has lived in India since fleeing Tibet in 1959 from China’s military takeover. China accuses the Nobel Peace Prize winner of waging a campaign for independence while he says he is seeking autonomy for Tibet.