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Kissinger, China, Congress, and the Lost Chance for Cambodia

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image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

Henry Kissinger has been persistent in his claim that the U.S. Congress's failure to adequately supply South Vietnam was the ultimate cause of its collapse in 1975 – a claim many historians dispute. An incident that has received less attention is the role of Congress in terminating a potential negotiated settlement of the civil war in Cambodia by imposing a halt of U.S. bombing there in the summer of 1973. This article demonstrates that in this case, Kissinger's claims are not without foundation. Although the conclusions are tentative without the full Chinese record, the evidence suggests that terminating U.S. military operations in Cambodia fatally undermined Chinese efforts to negotiate the removal of Lon Nol as Cambodian head of state and the establishment of a coalition government involving the Khmer Rouge but with Sihanouk at its head.


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