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Henry Kissinger meets with China’s defense minister in Beijing

The visit by the former secretary of state, who was acting as a private citizen, came as U.S. climate envoy John Kerry was also in the Chinese capital.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger celebrated his 100th birthday in his birthplace, Fürth, Germany, last month.Daniel Vogl / AP
/ Source:

BEIJING — Henry Kissinger, a former U.S. secretary of state, met with China’s defense minister, Li Shangfu, in Beijing on Tuesday, the ministry said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department said Kissinger was in Beijing as a private citizen, not on behalf of the U.S. government.

During the surprise visit, Kissinger said he was a friend of China and encouraged both countries to cooperate more closely, according to the statement.

“The United States and China should eliminate misunderstandings, coexist peacefully and avoid confrontation. History and practice have continually proved that neither the United States nor China can afford to treat the other as an adversary,” Kissinger said, according to a Reuters translation.

Without naming names, Li said that “some people in the U.S.” had previously failed to meet China halfway, causing Sino-U.S. relations to fall to their lowest point.

Kissinger’s meeting with Li comes as John Kerry, special presidential envoy for climate, is also in Beijing for climate talks.

Kerry’s trip to China follows those of U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the last several weeks.

Blinken said he failed to restore military-to-military talks with China during his visit in June.

Diplomatic relations between the two global powers have grown increasingly fractured over recent months amid a string of tit-for-tat tech sector trade caps and increased tensions around the Taiwan Strait. Li and his U.S. defense counterpart, Lloyd Austin, have not spoken officially despite the security concerns.

Kissinger’s visit comes almost exactly 52 years after his secret visit to Beijing in July 1971 — a move which paved the way for then-U.S. President Richard Nixon to normalize relations between the U.S. and Mao Zedong’s China.

More than half a century on, the 100-year-old remains broadly revered in China. In a May article in China’s Global Times newspaper, Kissinger’s contributions to U.S.-China relations were cited as one of his “career highlights.”