Dalai Lama to visit US for knee treatment this month, his office says

Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama gestures during a speech at the 108th anniversary of Indian Merchant Chambers in Mumbai

NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Tibetans' spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, will travel to the U.S. this month to undergo medical treatment for his knees and will not hold his usual public engagements from June 20, his office said on Monday.

The 88-year-old monk was advised against any travel last October following a bout of flu, but after recovery he visited Bodhgaya, one of the holiest Buddhist sites in eastern India, in January.

"His Holiness the Dalai Lama is scheduled to travel to the United States for medical treatment on his knees. Upon his return, regular engagements will resume," his office said in a statement.

It did not mention when he would return to Dharamsala, a town in the northern Indian Himalayas where he lives in a compound next to a temple ringed by green hills and snow-capped mountains.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet and is regarded by Beijing as a dangerous separatist. Chinese officials chafe at any interaction he has with officials from other countries.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner has worked for decades to draw global support for linguistic and cultural autonomy in his remote, mountainous homeland.

He has met U.S. officials, including U.S. presidents, in previous U.S. visits, but Washington was mum on whether any meetings were set for the June trip.

"While there is longstanding precedent for meetings between U.S. officials and respected religious figures, including the Dalai Lama, we do not have anything to confirm at this time," a U.S. State Department spokesperson told Reuters.

U.S. President Joe Biden's National Security Council did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Since taking office in 2021, Biden has yet to meet with the Dalai Lama. As a candidate in 2020, Biden criticized Donald Trump for being the only president in three decades who had not met or spoken to the Tibetan spiritual leader, calling this "disgraceful."

Any such engagement would raise hackles in Beijing at a time when the U.S. and China have sought to stabilize rocky ties.

The Atlantic magazine said the Dalai Lama's visit to the U.S. would follow one to Dharamsala to see the spiritual leader later this month by Representative Nancy Pelosi, as part of a congressional delegation. Washington's relations with Beijing took a nose dive in 2022 after Pelosi, then-Speaker of the House, visited China-claimed but democratically self-governed Taiwan.

Pelosi's spokesperson, Ian Krager, declined to comment on Pelosi's "upcoming or potential foreign travel," citing security reasons.

Chinese embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said China "firmly opposes any anti-China separatist activities conducted by Dalai in any capacity or name in any country, and opposes any forms of contact by officials of any country with him."

(Reporting by Shivam Patel in New Delhi and Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom in WashingtonEditing by Christina Fincher and David Gregorio)