WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department says the U.S. ambassador to China last month visited a restive region where ethnic Tibetans have set fire to themselves to protest Chinese rule.
Ambassador Gary Locke met with government officials and residents during a stop in Aba county of the Sichuan province in September.
Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday that Locke visited villages and Buddhist monasteries to learn more about how Tibetans live and work.
Nuland reiterated "grave concern" by the U.S. over the rising number of immolations, and she urged dialogue between China and Tibet.
Aba is home to Kirti Monastery, where the self-immolations began in February 2009. Activists have reported 55 self-immolations since then, about half of them in Aba. The county is usually off-limits to foreigners.