Updated Nov 30, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger dies at 100

Henry Kissinger during celebrations marking his 100th birthday. Photo: Daniel Vogl/dpa via Getty Images

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger died at his home in Connecticut on Wednesday at age 100, according to his website.

The big picture: The author, academic and statesman was the top U.S. diplomat for two presidents and a central figure in U.S. foreign policy in the latter half of the 20th century.

  • The joint Nobel Peace Prize winner was a controversial figure due to policies he pursued during the Cold War, such as the bombing of Cambodia that prompted some to label him a war criminal. But he remained an elder statesman of U.S. foreign policy, sought out by a succession of senior officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Zoom in: Kissinger served as national security adviser and secretary of state under President Richard Nixon and continued as secretary of state in the administration of Nixon's successor, President Gerald Ford.

  • The German-born Jewish refugee, who fled Nazi Germany with his family to the U.S. in 1938, was the only American to serve simultaneously as secretary of state and national security adviser, per the Washington Post.

Of note: China's leader Xi Jinping called Kissinger, who was central to the U.S. establishing ties with communist China in the 1970s, an "old friend" when they last met in July this year.

  • Announcing his death, state media agency China News said: "Today, this 'old friend of the Chinese people,' who had a sharp vision and a thorough understanding of world affairs, has completed his legendary life."

Flashback: Kissinger shared his 1973 Nobel with Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam for the negotiations that ended U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Kissinger donated his prize money to the children of American servicemen killed in the war.

  • His award prompted two members of the Nobel committee to resign. Tho rejected his, accusing Kissinger of violating the truce. Kissinger tried to return his award in 1975, one day after the fall of the South Vietnam capital Saigon to North Vietnamese communist forces, but the Nobel committee rejected his request.
  • Kissinger also helped negotiate the end of the Yom Kippur War, worked to set the former Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) away from white minority rule and toward representative government and negotiated key arms control deals with the Soviet Union.
  • After Kissinger served in the Nixon and Ford administrations, President Ronald Reagan appointed him as chair of the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America in 1982. He later served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under the administrations of Reagan and President George H.W. Bush.
  • George W. Bush appointed him chair of the commission to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when he was president. Kissinger resigned after rejecting demands to reveal his business client list.

What they're saying: "America has lost one of the most dependable and distinctive voices on foreign affairs with the passing of Henry Kissinger," former President Bush said in a statement on Wednesday night.

  • "I have long admired the man who fled the Nazis as a young boy from a Jewish family, then fought them in the United States Army," Bush said.
  • He expressed gratitude for Kissinger's service, advice and friendship, adding that he and former first lady Laura Bush will "miss his wisdom, his charm, and his humor."

What's next: Kissinger, who's survived by his wife, Nancy Maginnes Kissinger, two children and five grandchildren, will be interred at a private family service and a memorial service will be held in New York City at a later day, per a statement from his NYC-based international geopolitical consulting firm, Kissinger Associates.

Go deeper... In photos: Major moments in Kissinger's career

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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