February 18th marks as the very first time in which the Dalai Lama & President Barack Obama met face to face. The two Nobel Peace Prize winners seemed intent on keeping the meeting low-key, in order avoid worsening tensions between the two countries. The meeting was held at the White House and is said to be causing a furious uproar from protesters in China:

Wearing sandals and burgundy robes, he said he had expressed to Mr Obama his admiration for the U.S. as a 'champion of democracy, freedom, human values'.

During today's visit, Mr Obama - like his White House predecessors - denied the Dalai Lama the symbolism of meeting in the Oval Office. Instead, they met in the lesser-known Map Room. Such distinctions signalled to China that the Tibetan monk was not being received as a political leader.

China, which is increasingly at odds with the U.S. over currency exchanges, Taiwan arms sales and internet censorship, said the meeting would further damage ties. The White House insisted America and China - the world's largest and third-biggest economies respectively - have a 'mature relationship' capable of withstanding disagreements. The President is also currently attempting to secure China's help in settling North Korean and Iranian nuclear standoffs.

But, by going ahead, Mr Obama may be trying to show his resolve against increasingly assertive Chinese leaders after facing criticism for being too soft on them during his trip to China in November.

Even though he is considered by millions around the world as a man of peace, the Dalai Lama is accused by Beijing of being a dangerous separatist who foments unrest in Tibet. They accuse him of focusing on global issues with Beijing at the expense of promoting Chinese democratic reforms.