What you need to know:
- 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.
Henry Kissinger, the relentlessly ambitious US diplomat whose unapologetic promotion of raw American power helped shape the post-World War II world, died Wednesday, his consulting firm said. He was 100.
Kissinger, arguably the most identifiable secretary of state of modern times, died at his home in Connecticut, announced Kissinger Associates, through which the late diplomat grew wealthy helping businesses for decades after his government career.
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 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 isolated country, which has soared to become the world's second-largest economy and a growing competitor with Washington.
While Kissinger was despised in much of the world, China's foreign ministry on Thursday hailed the late US diplomat as an "old and good friend of the Chinese people."
Kissinger "had long been concerned about and supported the development of China-US relations, visiting China more than a hundred times and making historic contributions to promote the normalization of China-US relations," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
Fumio Kishida, prime minister of US ally Japan, credited Kissinger for his "significant contributions" to peace and stability in Asia, "including the normalization of diplomatic ties between the US and China."
At home, Kissinger also enjoyed deference across the political mainstream, with incumbent Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a member of the rival Democratic Party, 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, a Republican, said in a statement.
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.
After the Watergate scandal brought down Nixon, Kissinger served under his successor, Gerald Ford. In an unprecedented arrangement reflecting his influence, Kissinger served simultaneously as secretary of state -- the country's top diplomat -- and national security advisor, the president's right-hand aide.
- 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 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 1969-70 bombing campaign in Laos and Cambodia aimed at disrupting rebel movement into South Vietnam.
The bombing did not halt the infiltration but it 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.
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 instantly recognizable and even an unlikely sex symbol, hobnobbing with famous women. Kissinger spoke of his reputation with a classic realpolitik answer, "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac."
Kissinger is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years Nancy, two children from a previous marriage and five grandchildren.