US diplomat Solomon, who helped normalize China relations, dies

Top US diplomat and China scholar Richard Solomon, pictured (L) at a ground breaking ceremony with president George W. Bush (C)in 2008, has died aged 79

Top US diplomat and China scholar Richard Solomon, who played a leading role in the opening of relations with Beijing under Richard Nixon in the 1970s, has died at the age of 79, the State Department said on Wednesday.

A political scientist who died on Monday at his home outside Washington, DC, Solomon served on the National Security Council under Nixon, advising national security advisor Henry Kissinger, who spearheaded the "ping-pong" diplomacy that led to the normalizing of diplomatic relations with Communist China in 1978-1979.

Solomon was a "distinguished diplomat, peacemaker and scholar who devoted his life to building bridges between the United States and East Asia," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

Later, Solomon went to work at the State Department in the 1980s, becoming assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs in 1989, just as relations with China nosedived after the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

He then became a key architect of the 1991 Paris Peace Accord ending the Cambodian-Vietnamese war.

He also served as ambassador to the Philippines and on leaving the State Department became president of the Congressionally funded United States Institute of Peace, which he headed for two decades until 2012.

"His lasting legacy was to mainstream conflict management as an integral part of foreign policy," said Chester Crocker, a former assistant secretary of state who chaired the institute's board of directors alongside Solomon.