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Henry Kissinger warns of risk of U.S.-China 'Cold War'

In rare public display of emotion, U.S. statesman Kissinger, now 97, pauses to compose himself while relating story about late U.S. Sen. John McCain.

Published: April 30, 2021 11:45am

Updated: May 1, 2021 6:54am

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warned Friday that the U.S. government and the rest of the world has to work together to avoid a "Cold War" between the the U.S. and China in the future.

Hosting a virtual discussion for the McCain Institute's Sedona Forum 2021, former Sen. Joe Lieberman asked Kissinger how America will able to stay true to its values and "live successfully in a world with a rising China" at the same time.

"It's the biggest problem for America, the biggest problem for the world, because if we can't solve that, then the risk is that all over the world a kind of Cold War will develop between China and the United States," Kissinger replied. "And in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union had no economic capacity, and they had a military technological capacity, but it didn't have an elemental technological capacity as China does."

"But China is a huge economic power in addition to being a significant military power. So it is a very challenging task for America. And it's important that we unite on that and don't divide ourselves into one group that is in favor of the moral aspect and another one that is in favor of the strategic aspect. The two have to be linked." 

Kissinger, who won the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating an end to the Vietnam War, related the story of how, while in Hanoi to conclude the peace talks, he declined a North Vietnamese offer to take then-POW John McCain (son of the then-commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Command) back to America with him on his plane. When Kissinger finally met the freed McCain months later at the White House, the future Arizona senator told him, "Thank you for saving my honor."

Recalling McCain's words, a teary-eyed Kissinger, who turns 98 next month, was overcome with emotion, pausing for several moments to collect himself before resuming.

"I have not known [any] person similarly dedicated to the importance of America," said the venerable foreign policy sage. "And the lessons he drew from his experiences [were] conciliation with Vietnam, democracy as an important commitment of the United States and security and human progress. He dedicated himself to this, and so, to me, he's a great symbol of the best America could do. And it was an honor for me that we remained friends for the rest of our lives."

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