President Obama on Friday met with the Dalai Lama at the White House and praised the Tibetan spiritual leader's “commitment to peace and nonviolence.”

“The President reiterated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural, and linguistic traditions and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People's Republic of China,” said the White House in a statement.

“The President commended the Dalai Lama’s commitment to peace and nonviolence and expressed support for the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” approach,” the statement continued. “The President stressed that he encourages direct dialogue to resolve long-standing differences and that a dialogue that produces results would be positive for China and Tibetans.”

The meeting came after strong protests from China, which urged the president to cancel the invitation, saying going ahead would “severely impair” U.S.-Sino relations.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of backing violence against Beijing, but he says he is only seeking greater autonomy for his home Tibet, which is under Chinese control, through non-violent means.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying blasted the Dalai Lama as a “political exile who has long been engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion” on Thursday.

The White House on Friday said Obama “reiterated the U.S. position that Tibet is part of the People’s Republic of China and that the United States does not support Tibet independence.”

“The Dalai Lama stated that he is not seeking independence for Tibet and hopes that dialogue between his representatives and the Chinese government will resume,” said the White House. “The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of a positive and constructive relationship between the United States and China.”

Obama last met the Dalai Lama in 2011.