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Chinese President Xi Jinping told veteran U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger that "old friends" like him would never be forgotten, setting a more casual tone for their meeting in the Chinese capital as Beijing and Washington sought to strengthen deteriorating relations.
"Once again, China and the United States are at a crossroads of where to go and once again the two countries have a choice to make," Xi told the 100-year-old former U.S. diplomat.
Kissinger played a key diplomatic role in normalizing relations between Washington and Beijing in the 70s, when he was secretary of state (1973-1977) and national security adviser (1969-1975) in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. "The Chinese people never forget their old friends, and China-U.S. relations will always be associated with the name of Henry Kissinger," Xi told Kissinger during their meeting at the state-run guest house in Beijing, where high-ranking foreign guests are often welcomed.
Kissinger, who is highly respected in China even after leaving office, said he was grateful to Beijing for organizing the meeting in the building where he first met a Chinese leader. "The relationship between our two countries is important for world peace and progress for human society," the longtime U.S. diplomat was quoted as saying by state broadcaster.
Henry Kissinger made a surprise appearance in Beijing.
His visit to China comes as the two superpowers are embarking on a course to halt further strained relations that have already reached a historic decline. "China is ready to explore, together with the United States, the right path to understanding between the two countries and to promote steady progress in China-U.S. relations," Xi said.
Tensions between the world's two largest economies have intensified over a range of issues, including the war in Ukraine, Taiwan and trade restrictions. As part of Washington's efforts to rebuild its channels of communication, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry wrapped up a visit to China yesterday that followed lengthy talks with Beijing on fighting climate change. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Beijing last month.
Kissinger also met with China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, and Chinese Defense Minister Li Shanfu during a visit to China.