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Dalai Lama, China talk unity

From Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN Tokyo Bureau Chief

"Destruction of other part of the world is destruction of yourself, eventually," the Dalai Lama said.

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Dalai Lama

TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- At age 68, you might think that Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, doesn't have much more time to negotiate a deal with the Chinese government.

But if you believe in reincarnation, he actually has forever.

Although the Dalai Lama still cannot return to his homeland, he says his relations with neighboring China are the best they've been in nearly two decades.

"Last September our representative man went to China and met some Chinese officials. Also they had a brief visit to Tibet," he said.

"Then our second visit also took place this year in May. Now we are fully prepared, ready to send continuously delegation."

The man many consider to be the leader of Tibet's government-in-exile insists he doesn't want Tibetan independence but just greater autonomy.

"I'm not seeking independence. I'm not seeking separation," he told CNN. "The Chinese government's top priority is unity and stability. Of course, we also want that."

He said Chinese economic development in Tibet is not all bad, but at the same time there is no sign of improvement politically. There are still tight rules and suppression.

"In the political field I've made very clear. As soon as our return with certain degree of freedom comes, I will hand over all authority to Tibetan local government."

Although he has been away from home for decades, he said he still relates to the isolated Himalayan land.

"Preservation of Tibetan culture, preservation of environment. In these fields I would like to do something to serve because Tibetans trust me."

Tibetan Buddhists believe in reincarnation. Hence, he is the 14th Dalai Lama.

But what if he passes on before the Chinese let him back into Tibet? Could he be reborn there instead? His answer is no.

"I die outside. So, therefore, the previous life died outside with certain purpose. So, the reincarnation of that person logically should be outside, who can carry the work started in previous life," he said.

That would effectively cut off Chinese influence over the identity of his successor, setting the stage for his return, or the next Dalai Lama's -- on his own terms.

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