Kissinger dies aged 100

Kissinger dies aged 100

Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state whose unapologetic promotion of raw American power helped shape the post-World War II world, died Wednesday, his consulting firm said. He was 100.

"Dr. Henry Kissinger, a respected American scholar and statesman, died today at his home in Connecticut," Kissinger Associates announced in a statement late Wednesday.

It said that Kissinger's family would hold a private funeral, with a memorial service to take place later in New York, where Kissinger grew up after his Jewish family fled Nazi Germany.

The statement did not provide a cause of death. Kissinger had remained active even at as a centenarian, traveling to China in July to meet President Xi Jinping.

China was one of Kissinger's most lasting legacies. Hoping to shake up the Cold War fight against the Soviet Union, Kissinger secretly reached out to Beijing, culminating in a historic 1972 visit by president Richard Nixon and later the US establishment of relations with the then-isolated country, which has soared into the world's second largest economy and growing competitor with Washington.

After the Watergate scandal brought down Nixon, Kissinger served under his successor, Gerald Ford. In an unprecedented arrangement, Kissinger served both as secretary of state and national security advisory.

Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiations to end the Vietnam War, even though the conflict did not immediately end and his North Vietnamese counterpart, Le Duc Tho, declined to accept the prize.

Despised in much of the world, Kissinger as an elder statesman enjoyed the respect even of the rival Democratic Party, with incumbent Secretary of State Antony Blinken attending his 100th birthday party in New York.

"America has lost one of the most dependable and distinctive voices on foreign affairs with the passing of Henry Kissinger," former president George W. Bush said in a statement.

- Realpolitik and its consequences -

While Kissinger's intellectual gifts were begrudgingly acknowledged even by his critics, he remains deeply controversial for his ruthless philosophy of realpolitik -- the cold calculation that nations pursue their own interests through power.

Declassified documents showed that Kissinger gave his blessing to the undermining of Chile's elected Marxist president Salvador Allende and later the 1973 coup by General Augusto Pinochet.

Kissinger also supported Indonesia, a close anti-communist ally, as it seized East Timor in 1975. More than 100,000 East Timorese died from the start of the invasion -- launched one day after Kissinger and Ford met Indonesian leader Suharto -- until Indonesia ended its occupation in 1999.

Kissinger also turned a blind eye to Pakistan's mass atrocities as Bangladesh won independence in 1971, believing the US interest was keeping Islamabad as the quiet go-between with China.

Seeking to pull out of Vietnam but with a stronger hand at the negotiating table, Nixon and Kissinger authorized a secret 1969-1970 bombing campaign in Laos and Cambodia aimed at disrupting rebel movement into South Vietnam.

The bombing did not halt the infiltration, killed thousands of civilians and helped spawn the genocidal Khmer Rouge.

Kissinger similarly showed little concern over Cyprus when Greece's military junta deposed the elected leader, Archbishop Makarios, and Turkey in 1974 invaded the island, which remains divided.

- Iconic diplomat -

But Kissinger has never faced serious legal jeopardy, with a US judge in 2004 throwing out a lawsuit related to the assassination of Chile's army chief.

Kissinger won plaudits across the US political spectrum after the 1973 Yom Kippur War with his intensive negotiations between Israel and Arab states that came to define shuttle diplomacy.

He succeeded in splitting Arab powers from their Soviet patron, securing the role of the United States as the primary mediator and security guarantor in the region.

With his bookishly thick glasses and his deep monotone voice that never lost a touch of his native German, the immigrant academic turned ultimate insider became recognizable to the public like few other secretaries of state in history.

He was also an unlikely sex symbol, hobnobbing with famous women. Asked once about his reputation, Kissinger replied with a classic realpolitik answer, "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac."

He is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years Nancy, two children from a previous marriage and five grandchildren, his consulting firm said.