American former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger died Wednesday at his home in Connecticut. He was 100 years old.
Kissinger was famed for helping restore ties between the United States and China and negotiating the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam.
The German-born Jewish refugee served as national security advisor and secretary of state under two presidents, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
During the 1970s, Kissinger led U.S. diplomacy and was involved in many world-changing events.
He led the first “shuttle diplomacy” to improve ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors. He started secret talks that led to the recognition of Communist China and its return to the world community. His policy of “détente” led to arms control agreements with the former Soviet Union.
He negotiated the 1973 Paris Peace Accord to get the U.S. out of the conflict in Vietnam. The effort won him a Nobel Peace Prize. Vietnamese Communist forces won control of the country two years later.
On Thursday, many world leaders praised Kissinger for his life’s work. However, others sharply criticized the former diplomat for damaging the world in the process. And on social media, many posts described him as a war criminal.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush said, “America has lost one of the most dependable and distinctive voices” on foreign relations.
French President Emmanuel Macron praised Kissinger in a post on the social media site X, formerly Twitter. He wrote: “Henry Kissinger was a giant of history. His century of ideas and of diplomacy had a lasting influence on his time and on our world.”
China’s state broadcaster CCTV said that President Xi Jinping sent U.S. President Joe Biden a message of sympathy Thursday. It said, “Dr. Kissinger will always be remembered and missed by the Chinese people.” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson called Kissinger an “old friend and good friend of the Chinese people, and a pioneer and builder of China-U.S. relations.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a message to Kissinger’s wife that his foreign policy led to “the most important Soviet-American agreements” in strengthening world security.
In a message to Kissinger’s family, Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote, “with his détente and disarmament policy, Henry Kissinger laid the foundation for the end of the Cold War and the democratic transition in eastern Europe” which led to Germany’s reunification.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Tel Aviv that Kissinger “laid the cornerstone of the peace agreement, which (was) later signed with Egypt, and so many other processes around the world I admire.”
However, criticism of Kissinger was especially strong for his actions during the war in Vietnam.
The policy of "Vietnamization" was meant to shift the fighting against North Vietnam from U.S. forces to the South Vietnamese. It included a massive bombing campaign of North Vietnam and the mining of the Northern ports. The U.S. also bombed in Cambodia and Laos in 1969 although Kissinger kept that secret. The attacks in those countries intensified the civil war in Vietnam.
Kissinger also was criticized for his part in Angola’s civil war, Pakistan’s aggression toward Bangladesh, and the U.S. involvement in Chile, which ended with a government overthrow in 1973.
Sophal Ear is a Cambodia expert at Arizona State University. He wrote in the online publication The Conversation: “Henry Kissinger’s bombing campaign likely killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians — and set (a) path for the ravages of the Khmer Rouge.”
“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,” Sophal Ear added.
Reporting the diplomat's death, the magazine Rolling Stone published this headline: “Henry Kissinger, war criminal beloved by America’s ruling class, finally dies.”
I'm Caty Weaver.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on reports from VOA News, The Associated Press and Reuters.
Words in This Story
shuttle - v. to travel back and forth between places
detente - n. an ending of hostile relations between countries
distinctive - adj. appealing or interesting quality
giant - n. a person that is very large, powerful and successful
shift - v. to move to a different place or position
cluster - n. a group of things together