Kissinger: Hu's visit is important for charting future

Updated: 2011-01-15 14:43
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NEW YORK -- Chinese President Hu Jintao's upcoming state visit to the United States is of fundamental importance in charting the future of US-China relations, says former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

"I am convinced that there is a great opportunity to start a new era in US-China relations, and I am very hopeful and very positive," said Kissinger in a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua in his Manhattan office.

Kissinger said the cooperation between the two countries is perhaps even more important than it was 40 years ago as new issues arise, including environment, proliferation, climate change, and the emergence of China as one of the most significant economies in the world.

"So I think this (President Hu's visit) can be a visit of fundamental importance in charting the future," said Kissinger, who played a key role in US foreign policy in the late 1960s and most of the 1970s.

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Kissinger paid a highly confidential visit to China in 1971 that paved the way for a groundbreaking 1972 summit in Beijing between US President Richard Nixon and China's Chairman Mao Zedong. The summit eventually led to the normalization of US-China relations.

In the interview with Xinhua, Kissinger called for close and permanent cooperation between the two countries.

"China and the US now have common opportunities and challenges, so both countries have to find means of working together," he said.

The most important element is "that we talk frankly with each other, that we don't surprise each other, that we stay in constant dialogue with each other, and that we recognize that when America and China cooperate, the world benefits," he said.

He suggested establishing "permanent consultative institutions" between the two sides.

"It is important to establish permanent consultative institutions, so they are always in contact with each other, and we should not always wait until a crisis happens," said Kissinger.

"If we have a permanent contact, then even (when) there is an occasion of difficulty, it will fit into a continuing dialogue, and I expect this to be a result of this visit," he added.

President Hu will start a four-day state visit to the United States on January 18.

Kissinger noted that difficulties in China-US relations are very often "exaggerated" and acknowledged there is at present a "considerable amount" of trust between the two nations.

"People say we are worried about China growing. China will grow, that's inevitable, that's desirable," Kissinger said. "But that will bring changes, and we will change, so we constantly have to be prepared, to adjust to new conditions."

Widely known as "an old friend of the Chinese people" in China, the 87-year-old statesman has visited China over 80 times. He is among the few foreigners who were received by all four generations of Chinese leaders.

"The first time I met Premier Zhou Enlai, I called China 'a land of mystery,' and he said when you get to know us better, it will not be so mysterious. And he was right. The contact and dialogue have improved enormously," Kissinger said.

"I admire enormously what the Chinese people have done in those 40 years" he said. "Therefore, I am convinced the next 40 years will bring as much benefit to the Chinese people and to Chinese and American friendship as the past period," he said.

"I look forward to the opportunity of seeing your president at various functions in Washington. And whenever I see a Chinese leader, I will be the old friend," said a beaming Kissinger.