China has warned of “serious damage” to its ties with the United States if President Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama, as is expected later this month.

U.S. officials have said Mr. Obama intends to meet the Tibetan religious leader when he visits the country in two weeks’ time, though no date has yet been fixed.

Such a meeting would “threaten trust and co-operation” between the U.S. and China, warned Zhu Weiqun, Executive Vice-Minister, United Front Work Department of the Communist Party’s Central Committee.

He said the U.S. would “violate international rules by making such a decision”, and it would be “both irrational and harmful” to bilateral relations with China. “If a country decides to [meet the Dalai Lama], we will take necessary measures to help them realise this,” said Mr. Zhu.

Thubten Samphel, a spokesperson for the so-called government-in-exile, Dharamshala, said he was “surprised” by Beijing’s warning. “I believe the meeting, if it takes place, will be a positive force to resolve the issue through the process of dialogue,” he told The Hindu.

If the meeting does take place, it will add to a growing list of recent tensions between Washington and Beijing, including a series of trade disputes, a row over Internet censorship, and most recently, a $6.4-billion arms sale from the U.S. to Taiwan. China on Saturday announced it has suspended military exchanges with the U.S. following the sale.

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