Trump picks Kissinger's brain as team takes shape

AFP , Thursday 17 Nov 2016

File Photo: Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger speaks at the International Economic Forum of the Americas/Conference of Montreal June 11, 2008 (Photo: Reuters)

President-elect Donald Trump took a break from recruiting a national security team Thursday to seek advice from one of the more illustrious -- if controversial -- officials from the past: Henry Kissinger.

The 93-year-old served as secretary of state and national security adviser under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, was the architect of the US outreach to China and helped negotiate the Paris Peace Accords that ended the Vietnam War.

He is still a respected policy expert and consultant, but his reputation has been clouded by criticism of his role in a CIA-backed coup in Chile and America's illegal Vietnam-era bombing of Cambodia.

Trump, who has no foreign policy experience -- or indeed time in political office -- of his own, had already met with Kissinger during his campaign and was delighted to welcome him to Trump Tower.

There, the Republican's close-knit team are debating who to invite to join his administration and observers and foreign capitals are watching closely to see if his staff and cabinet picks offer any clue as to the direction of his policy.

"I have tremendous respect for Dr. Kissinger and appreciate him sharing his thoughts with me," Trump said after the pair met in his luxury New York skyscraper, adding that they had discussed China, Russian, Iran, Europe and broader world affairs.

While Kissinger has been happy to share his wisdom with Trump, he is known to have been closer to his defeated Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, and has admitted that he expected her to win the White House race.

In an interview published this month with Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor of The Atlantic magazine, Trump said that of the 2016 candidates only Clinton shared America's "traditional, outward-looking, internationalist model."

The uncertainty over the attitude of a candidate like Trump, he said, means that "for the first time since the end of the Second World War, the future relationship of America to the world is not fully settled."

Trump was to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later in the day and then to pick his secretary of state, national security adviser and defense secretary in the days to come.

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