A senior Japanese government official held talks Saturday with the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, as he made a stopover in Japan on his way to India after a visit to Mongolia.

Kenzo Yoneda, a senior vice minister of the Cabinet Office and a House of Representatives member, met the Dalai Lama with two other Japanese politicians at a hotel near Narita airport.

Yoneda, the second-highest ranking official in the Cabinet Office, is the first senior Japanese official to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader.

Yoneda said to reporters he told the Dalai Lama the visit was in the capacity of “a member of a parliamentarians’ league” examining Tibetan issues.

During the talks, Yoneda criticized China’s Tibet policy, telling the Dalia Lama that he “feels strong indignation about the current situation in Tibet, where the commonly shared human ideals of protecting human rights and self-determination are not realized.”

The Dalai Lama expressed hope for dialogue with China following the latest round of the Chinese Communist Party’s Congress, which are presently under way in Beijing, saying a new relationship is developing, according to Japanese officials attending the meeting.

Seishu Makino, a Lower House member who leads the Japanese parliamentarians’ league, told reporters that the group plans to invite the Dalai Lama to Japan next year.

China, which annexed Tibet in 1950, is opposed to any international appearances by the Dalai Lama, whom it regularly condemns as a troublemaker and “splittist.” The Japanese government authorized the visit on the grounds that the Dalai Lama would not engage in any political activities.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in northern India since 1959, when he and thousands of followers fled their homeland after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He last visited Japan in April 2000.

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