- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on Wednesday praised soon-to-be presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. as “intelligent” and “a very good ambassador” to China.

“I think he’s intelligent, well-poised,” said Mr. Kissinger, who met Mr. Huntsman on Tuesday at a lunch in New York and spoke with reporters and bloggers in Washington on Wednesday. “Did a good job in China. Certainly makes a good candidate.”

Mr. Huntsman, 51, was appointed to his Beijing post by President Obama in 2009 after being re-elected as governor of Utah. A fluent Mandarin speaker, he resigned his ambassadorial post in April to pursue a presidential run, which he will make official next week.

The German-born Mr. Kissinger, who served as secretary of state from 1973 to 1977, has been out promoting his new 530-page book, “On China,” a collection of his reflections on his diplomatic experience with China and his prescriptions for U.S. policy going forward.

Though he endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain during the 2008 Republican primaries, Mr. Kissinger said he was unlikely to formally endorse Mr. Huntsman or any other candidate this time.

“I normally don’t endorse candidates, and part of the reason is that when I endorse a candidate, he loses,” he said, citing his support for Nelson Rockefeller in three Republican primary campaigns.

Mr. Kissinger, who is credited with President Richard M. Nixon’s opening a new chapter in U.S.-China relations, said his preference is not to pick sides but to “be available for foreign-policy advice” to all candidates, including Mr. Obama.

“I was 88 on my last birthday,” he said. “I have no ambition, so I think my best contribution now is to help what I consider a reasonable foreign policy.”

As for the entire Obama administration’s dealings with China, Mr. Kissinger offered cautious praise.

“It’s no secret that Obama was my second choice in the last election, but I think they’ve handled [China] reasonably,” he said, adding that without a breakthrough in the stormy bilateral relations, “you can’t give them an A-plus.”

Mr. Kissinger offered an anecdote about Mr. Huntsman.

“I’ve had no contact with him other than his being ambassador. He says when he was 7 years old, his father visited the White House and he carried my briefcase,” the former diplomat said. “I don’t remember it.”