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Henry Kissinger's death met with polarised reaction

Author
AP,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 Nov 2023, 9:27PM
Henry Kissinger, who led the China-US Track Two Dialogue, chats with China's President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Beijing in 2015. Photo / AP
Henry Kissinger, who led the China-US Track Two Dialogue, chats with China's President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Beijing in 2015. Photo / AP

Henry Kissinger's death met with polarised reaction

Author
AP,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 Nov 2023, 9:27PM

A polarised reaction poured in today to the death of former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who managed to galvanise global attention decades after his official service as one of the most powerful diplomats in American history.

Kissinger, who died Wednesday in Connecticut at 100, was praised as a skilled defender of US interests by world leaders. On social media, he was widely called a war criminal who left lasting damage throughout the world.

“America has lost one of the most dependable and distinctive voices on foreign affairs,” said former US president George W. Bush, striking a tone that many high-level officials, past and present, tried to convey.

“I have long admired the man who fled the Nazis as a young boy from a Jewish family, then fought them in the United States Army,” Bush said in a statement. “When he later became secretary of state, his appointment as a former refugee said as much about his greatness as it did America’s greatness.”

Henry Kissinger (left) talks with then senator Joe Biden in Washington in 2007. Photo / AP
Henry Kissinger (left) talks with then senator Joe Biden in Washington in 2007. Photo / AP

Kissinger served two presidents, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and dominated foreign policy as the United States withdrew from Vietnam and established ties with China.

Kissinger is revered in China for having engineered the opening of relations between the ruling Communist Party and Washington under Nixon.

Chinese Ambassador to the United States Xie Feng said he was “deeply shocked and saddened” at Kissinger’s death. “He will always remain alive in the hearts of the Chinese people as a most valued old friend.”

Another former US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said Kissinger left an indelible mark on American and world history.

Henry Kissinger, who led the China-US Track Two Dialogue, chats with China's President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Beijing in 2015. Photo / AP
Henry Kissinger, who led the China-US Track Two Dialogue, chats with China's President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Beijing in 2015. Photo / AP

“I will always be grateful for his gracious advice and help during my own time as secretary,” Pompeo tweeted on X. “Always supportive and always informed, his wisdom made me better and more prepared after every one of our conversations.”

Criticism of Kissinger, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, was especially strong on social media, where many posted celebratory videos in reaction to his death.

A Rolling Stone magazine headline said: “Henry Kissinger, war criminal beloved by America’s ruling class, finally dies.”

Kissinger’s role in the US bombing of Cambodia “likely killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians — and set [a] path for the ravages of the Khmer Rouge”, Sophal Ear, a scholar at Arizona State University who studies Cambodia’s political economy, wrote on The Conversation.

“The cluster bombs dropped on Cambodia under Kissinger’s watch continue to destroy the lives of any man, woman or child who happens across them,” Ear wrote.

Kissinger exerted uncommon influence on global affairs long after he left office. In July, for instance, he met Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing while US-Chinese relations were at a low point.

Henry Kissinger with Margaret Thatcher, then leader of Britain's Conservative Party, at the Capitol in September 1975. Photo / AP
Henry Kissinger with Margaret Thatcher, then leader of Britain's Conservative Party, at the Capitol in September 1975. Photo / AP

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”.

Kissinger initiated the Paris negotiations that ultimately provided a face-saving means to get the United States out of a costly war in Vietnam.

“Dr Kissinger played an important role in the historic opening to the People’s Republic of China and in advancing detente with the Soviet Union, bold initiatives which initiated the beginning of the end of the Cold War. His ‘shuttle diplomacy’ to the Middle East helped to advance the relaxation of tensions in that troubled region of the world,” the Nixon daughters said in a statement.

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