The White House finally addressed the death of American diplomat Henry Kissinger, calling it a huge loss, even as President Joe Biden has yet to release a statement. ‘It’s a huge loss,’ White House spokesman John Kirby said at the daily press briefing, which took place about 17 hours after Kissinger’s death. ‘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 afterward,’ he 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. Biden, in June at a fundraiser in California, said his foreign policy experience was the equal of anyone — including veteran diplomat Henry 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 an 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. Kissinger worked for two presidents, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, but advised many others. However, 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 President 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 when 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.’
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 a 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.
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.’
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