Watch: Henry Kissinger on Cooperation and Power in U.S.-Asia Relations

NEW YORK, April 8, 2014 — Although the use of force is “not excluded” from relations among Asian countries, large countries such as China, Japan, and the U.S. recognize the possibilities for building relations that involve cooperation as well as a balance of military power, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said on Tuesday.

“China does not want to the U.S. to be encroaching on China with close-in military bases and give the impression that we at some point might intervene militarily,” said Kissinger. “America does not want China to be in a position where its military force becomes the overhanging element in the relationship.”

“We need to do certain things together,” Kissinger added. “On issues like Korea, freedom of disease, and nuclear proliferation, where China and the U.S. cooperate, their influence on the world will be extremely great and where their interests are essentially compatible.”

Kissinger delivered his remarks during a conversation with Zhu Min, Deputy Director of the International Monetary Fund, as part of a half-day forum presented by the Asia Society Policy Institute.

Kissinger said he believed that tension between China and Japan could also be resolved without military confrontation.

“Sooner or later, Japan and China will move towards cooperation,” Kissinger said. “In the end, both sides will give up something.”

Kissinger pointed out that in the 1970s, when Japan had administrative control of islands in the East China Sea, Deng Xiaoping said “he didn’t know what the arrangement meant, but we should try to live by it.”

“Something like that ought to be at the end of the process.”

Kissinger sounded a worrisome note about nuclear proliferation, particularly among smaller countries.

“Iran will not be operating alone in this environment. The almost-certain outcome will be that a number of other countries will also acquire nuclear weapons,” Kissinger said. “When you get countries with limited resources, less experience, smaller capabilities, confronting each other over shorter distances, the possibility of miscalculation rises enormously.”

“I think the development by Iran of nuclear weapons will be a fateful step in the evolution of the postwar period,” said Kissinger.

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Joshua Rosenfield is Director of Content Strategy with the Asia Society Policy Institute. He is based in New York.