Henry A. Kissinger gave general support to the Carter administration foreign policy yesterday and drew several rounds of applause with repeated statements opposing any U.S. economic aid to Vietnam in the near future.
The former Secretary of State noted that President Carter was about to make his first foreign trip and urged bipartisan support for his foreign policy effort.
Kissinger was the luncheon speaker at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce annual meeting at the Shoreham Americana Hotel, one of his first paid appearances since leaving office.
A chamber official said Kissinger asked for $7,500 and sources said he accepted $5,000 for his 20-minute speech and a question-and-answer session with three television journalists who were also paid by the chamber.
The audience stood and applauded him at the beginning and end of his appearance.
"It is absolutely absurd for the Vietnamese to say they have a right to U.S. economic aid," Kissinger said in response to a question about the still-secret Feb. 1, 1973, letter from then-President Nixon to Hanoi that is reported to have promised $3.25 billion in aid.
"Today, among the many claims on American resources, I would put those of Vietnam in alphabetical order," Kissinger said.
Assistant Secretary of State Richard C. Holbrooke began negotiations with Hanoi in Paris yesterday aimed at improving American-Vietnamese relations.
Hanoi officials have referred to "promises" of aid. Kissinger avoided a direct answer to whether aid had been promised but said that any U.S. commitments were no longer binding because Hanoi violated the 1973 Paris peace agreement by sending almost its entire army into South Vietnam in 1975.
Kissinger praised the Carter administration for its energy conservation program and for "asking the right questions" about nuclear proliferation.
He also backed Carter's contention that criticism of human rights violations in the Soviet Union by the President and other American officials will not make strategic arms talks with the Soviets more difficult. He did not elaborate, but this appeared to run counter to Kissinger's often stated belief that the effects of all foreign policy actions that concern the Soviets are linked.
Before the luncheon Kissinger aides contacted the panel of TV journalists to request that no questions be asked that would invite Kissinger criticism of Carter administration policies, according to a panel member, Rod MacLeish of CBS.
The panel - which also included Marilyn Berger of NBC and Barry Dunsmore of ABC - refused, but Kissinger elegantly bypassed their invitations, saying he is reluctant to debate tactical points of foreign policy.
He indicated, however, that he does not approve of diplomacy conducted in public and he could not resist yielding to his wit at one point.
All administrations start out believing they will save the world. Kissinger joked, but the present one sometimes seems to believe it created the world.