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Former Mao translator, diplomat Huang dies at 97

Huang Hua, a former translator for Mao Zedong who oversaw China's formation of diplomatic ties with the United States in 1979, died Wednesday at age 97.

State broadcaster CCTV said Huang died of an undisclosed illness.

Huang helped lay the foundation of China's modern foreign policy, meeting secretly with U.S. National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger and helping draft the announcement of President Richard Nixon's groundbreaking visit to the country in 1972.

As foreign minister from 1976-1985, Huang oversaw the formation of diplomatic ties with Washington in 1979 and accompanied paramount leader Deng Xiaoping on his tour of the United States that year.

Huang joined the then-underground Communist Party in 1936 and was one of Mao's English translators in the years before the 1949 communist seizure of power, according to his official biography.

He was increasingly pivotal in China's foreign relations at a time when the communist state was largely isolated and battling for diplomatic recognition with Chiang Kai-shek's U.S.-allied Nationalists on Taiwan.

In the early 1950s, Huang was part of the Chinese delegation to drawn-out Korean War peace talks that eventually resulted in the 1953 armistice still in force.

In 1958, he took part in tentative initial contacts with the U.S. in Warsaw, Poland, that at the time were the only conduit for direct contacts between the sides.