Henry Kissinger meets with Chinese language Protection Minister in Beijing

Former U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger appears on a screen while delivering a video address to attendees of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2023 at Alpenresort Davos, Switzerland, January 17, 2023.

Arnd Wiegmann Reuters

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 US State Department said Kissinger was in Beijing as a private individual, not on behalf of the US government.

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

“The United States and China should resolve misunderstandings, coexist peacefully, and avoid confrontation. History and practice have proven time and time again that neither the United States nor China can afford to treat the other as adversaries,” Kissinger said, according to a Reuters translation.

Without naming names, Li said that “some people in the US” had previously failed to accommodate China, causing Sino-US relations to hit rock bottom.

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

Kerry’s trip to China follows that of US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in recent weeks.

Blinken said he failed to restart military talks with China during his June visit.

Diplomatic ties between the two world powers have increasingly fractured in recent months amid a series of mutual trade caps in the tech sector and rising cross-strait tensions. Li and his US defense counterpart 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 that paved the way for then-US President Richard Nixon to normalize US-China relations under Mao Zedong.

More than half a century later, the 100-year-old is still universally revered in China. A May article in China’s Global Times newspaper called Kissinger’s contributions to US-China relations one of his “career highlights.”

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