President Joe Biden finally put out a statement offering condolences for Henry Kissinger, 20 hours after the death of the 100-year-old American diplomat.
Biden recalled meeting Kissinger, the secretary of State and national security advisor for both Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, when he first became a U.S. senator in the 1970s.
The president said he would ‘never forget’ that first meeting, with Kissinger ‘giving a briefing on the state of the world.’
‘Throughout our careers, we often disagreed. And often strongly. But from that first briefing – his fierce intellect and profound strategic focus was evident,’ Biden said. ‘Long after retiring from government, he continued to offer his views and ideas to the most important policy discussion across multiple generations.’
‘Jill and I send our condolences to his wife Nancy, his children Elizabeth and David, his grandchildren, and all those who loved him,’ Biden added.
Henry Kissinger (left) with President Joe Biden (right) in June 2007, when Biden was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Prior to the statement’s release, White House spokesman John Kirby was forced to address the prominent death.
‘It’s a huge loss,’ Kirby said during Thursday’s White House briefing, which took place 17 hours after Kissinger passed away.
‘This was a man who, whether you agree with him or not, whether you hold the same views, he served in World War Two, served his country bravely in uniform and decades afterwards,’ Kirby noted.
‘We can all be grateful,’ he added. ‘There’s no question that he shaped foreign policy decisions for decades, and he certainly had an impact on America’s role in the world.’
Kissinger died Wednesday at the age of 100.
Kissinger was born in Germany in 1923 and escaped the Nazi regime when he was 20. But many of his relatives died in the Holocaust.
He made his way to America, fought against Germany in World War II, went to Harvard and made his way up the diplomatic ranks, serving two presidents and advising countless other leaders.
‘This was a man who, whether you agree with him or not, whether you hold the same views, he served in World War Two, served his country bravely in uniform and decades afterwards,’ White House spokesman John Kirby said of Kissinger
Biden, in June at a fundraiser in California, said his foreign policy experience was the equal of anyone — including that of Kissinger.
‘I’m going to say something outrageous. I think I know as much about American foreign policy as anybody living, including Dr. Kissinger,’ the president said.
‘That’s what I’ve done my whole life, for the last 207 years,’ Biden, the oldest US president in American president, added in a joke about his age.
He knew Kissinger when he was a senator and served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
While Kissinger worked for two presidents, Nixon and Ford, he advised many others.
He told the New York Post in June that he had been invited to an Oval Office meeting with every president – except Biden.
A giant on the world stage, Kissinger dominated foreign policy in the 1970s as the United States withdrew from Vietnam and established ties with China.
China’s President Xi Jinping sent Biden a message of condolence Thursday.
Kissinger first visited Beijing in 1971, paving the way for the U.S. diplomatic opening to China. He visited the country more than 100 times and made a final surprise trip to Beijing in July for a meeting with Xi at a time Biden administration officials were getting meetings with lesser officials.
‘Dr. Kissinger will always be remembered and missed by the Chinese people,’ the message said, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
Further, ‘China is ready to work with the United States to carry on the cause of friendship between the Chinese and American people, to promote the healthy and stable development of China-United States relations for the benefit of the two peoples, and to make due contributions to world peace and development.’
Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, talks to former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, June 2023
Then-Sen. Joe Biden (center) with Henry Kissinger and then-Sen. John Kerry in January 2007
Henry Kissinger served as Secretary of State for Richard Nixon – the two men in the Oval Office in October 1973
George W. Bush paid tribute to Henry Kissinger and released a portrait he painted of him
Kissinger praised Biden and Xi when they met in Bali on the sidelines of a G20 summit, saying the sitdown kickstarted a ‘bridge-building effort,’ including cooperation in areas such as climate change and the global economy.
Biden and Xi met again in San Francisco earlier this month.
But Kissinger criticized Biden in other areas, including the president’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August 2021.
‘The military objectives have been too absolute and unattainable and the political ones too abstract and elusive. The failure to link them to each other has involved America in conflicts without definable terminal points and caused us internally to dissolve unified purpose in a swamp of domestic controversies,’ he wrote in the Economist.
Kissinger also supported Ukraine’s request to join NATO, which the Biden administration has been hesitant on.
Current Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised his predecessor.
‘It was Henry’s enduring capacity to bring his strategic acumen and intellect to bear on the emerging challenges of each passing decade that led Presidents, Secretaries of State, National Security Advisors, and other leaders from both parties to seek his counsel. Including me – whether I was traveling to China more than 50 years after his transformative trip, or seeking his counsel as we shaped our approach to artificial intelligence, on which he was thinking, writing, and advising prolifically, up to the final weeks of his life,’ Blinken said in a statement.
‘Few people were better students of history – and even fewer people did more to shape history – than Henry Kissinger.’
Kissinger is controversial figure – some calling him a skilled diplomat who advanced American interests in the world and others criticized him as a war criminal.
He won the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the peace accords that ended American involvement in the Vietnam War but his critics questioned his push to bomb Cambodia and accused him of prolonging the Vietnam War when the peaceframe work had been available for years.
Joe Biden with Henry Kissinger in February 2009 when Biden was Vice President
Nixon’s daughters, Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, said their father and Kissinger enjoyed ‘a partnership that produced a generation of peace for our nation.’
‘Dr. Kissinger played an important role in the historic opening to the People’s Republic of China and in advancing détente with the Soviet Union, bold initiatives which initiated the beginning of the end of the Cold War,’ the Nixon daughters said in a statement. ‘His ‘shuttle diplomacy’ to the Middle East helped to advance the relaxation of tensions in that troubled region of the world,’
Other presidents paid also tribute.
‘America has lost one of the most dependable and distinctive voices’ on foreign affairs, said former President George W. Bush, who also shared a portrait he painted of the late diplomat.