The Prime Minister has decided that he won't meet the Dalai Lama when the Tibetan religious leader visits New Zealand in December.
China strongly objects to political leaders meeting with the Dalai Lama because of his views on Tibet gaining independence from China.
Mr Key met him when he was Leader of the Opposition but is choosing not to this time, perhaps leaving a National Party MP to do so.
"The reason simply is that I decided I wouldn't get a lot out of that particular meeting, " Mr Key said on Wednesday. "I don't see every religious leader that comes to town. I've seen him in the past; I may see him in the future."
The Prime Minister said he had already told China's President Hu Jintao that he would not meet the Dalai Lama.
Obama urges resumption of dialogue
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has urged Mr Hu to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama.
Mr Obama was speaking alongside Mr Hu after wide-ranging talks in Beijing.