Henry A. Kissinger, the 100-year-old former secretary of state who pushed the United States to take a more conciliatory approach to China, made a surprise visit to Beijing, meeting with the Chinese defense minister.

The previously unannounced trip by Mr. Kissinger, who more than 50 years ago helped pave the way for diplomatic relations between the United States and China during the administration of President Richard M. Nixon, coincided with a string of visits by currently serving American officials to China.

On Tuesday, the day Mr. Kissinger met with Li Shangfu, the defense minister, President Biden’s climate change envoy, John Kerry, met with China’s premier and top foreign policy official. In recent weeks, the current secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, and the treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, have also traveled to Beijing to try to stabilize relations between the United States and China.

But while those officials have met varying levels of coolness or rebuke from Chinese officials or state media, reflecting the geopolitical tensions, the description of ministry of defense of the meeting with Mr. Kissinger was warmer. The fact that Mr. Kissinger met with Mr. Li at all was remarkable: China last month rejected a request for Mr. Li to meet with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a summit in Singapore. (China blamed the refusal on US sanctions on Mr Li.)

During Mr. Blinken’s visit last month, Chinese officials again rejected a request to reopen direct channels of military-to-military communication.

In meeting with Mr. Kissinger, Mr. Li said he hoped the United States would cooperate with China to promote the “healthy, stable development of the relationship between the two countries and the two militaries,” according to a defense ministry statement.

Mr Li also criticized “some people in the US” for “not meeting China halfway”, noting that the atmosphere for friendly communication had been “destroyed”.

Mr Kissinger, the defense ministry said, said he was “here as a friend of China”, and that the two countries should “eliminate misunderstandings, coexist peacefully and avoid confrontation”.

It was not immediately clear how long Mr. Kissinger would be in Beijing or whether he would meet with other officials, including China’s leader, Xi Jinping. Mr Xi and Mr Kissinger met in Beijing in 2019, when Mr Xi told Mr Kissinger he hoped he would “enjoy many more healthy years ahead and continue to be a promoter and contributor to China-US relations”. according to XinhuaChinese state news agency.

Chinese state media have long showered Mr. Kissinger with praise, particularly as a counter to the more aggressive stances toward Beijing taken by recent US presidential administrations.

In an article in Mayfor Mr. Kissinger’s 100th birthday, the Global Times, a nationalist party-run tabloid, said that Mr. Kissinger is “legendary,” and “continues to keep his excellent mind sharp on U.S.-China relations expressly warning Washington” against an adversarial relationship.

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