ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (AP) — Mongolia will no longer allow the Dalai Lama to visit the country after a recent trip by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader prompted protests from China and a suspension of talks on a major loan.
China's foreign ministry said Wednesday that Beijing "attached importance" to the remarks by Mongolia's top diplomat and hoped the country would "honor the commitment" it has made on the issue. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking to split Tibet from China.
Mongolian Foreign Minister Tsend Munkh-Orgil expressed regret that the Dalai Lama's visit hurt ties with Beijing, Mongolia's powerful neighbor, in an interview with a local newspaper, Unuudur.
"You can understand that during the full term of this government, the Dalai Lama will not be allowed to visit Mongolia even for religious purposes," he reportedly said. His comments were confirmed by the ministry's press office Wednesday.
The foreign minister's pledge underscores the effectiveness with which China wields its economic leverage over countries it seeks to influence on issues ranging from the Dalai Lama's travels to diplomatic recognition of self-ruled Taiwan.
Mongolia's fragile economy is heavily dependent on China. The countries had been discussing a possible $4.2 billion loan by Beijing to deal with a recession.
But China delayed talks along with visits by Mongolia's deputy prime minister and a group of lawmakers in response to the Dalai Lama's visit.
Munkh-Orgil was quoted as saying that both sides were working to normalize relations and resume talks and that Mongolian lawmakers were able to visit China last week.
Following the visit, China also effectively choked a border crossing with the imposition of new fees and requirements on shipments through a major border point that caused significant delays. Almost 1,000 trucks carrying copper and coal pass through that point every day.
Mongolian Buddhism is closely tied to Tibet's strain and traditionally reveres the Dalai Lama. Mongolian religious figures had said the visit might have been the last for the 81-year-old spiritual leader, and some of his followers traveled hundreds of miles to see him while braving the coldest November temperatures in a decade.
The Dalai Lama has said his visit last month to the landlocked, primarily Buddhist, nation had no political purpose and that he had not publicly advocated independence for Tibet since 1974.