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The Paris Peace Accords 1973 – an affirmation of the strong will and intellectual peak of Vietnam’s diplomacy

On 27th January 1973, the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam (The Paris Peace Accords for short) was signed. This event was of special importance to our struggle for national liberation and unification, while affirming the strong will and intellectual peak of Vietnam’s diplomacy.

The power of the will

During the course of Vietnam’s revolutionary history, diplomacy has always been considered an important front contributing to defeating the invaders. As for the resistance war against the American aggressors, especially during the time of negotiation for the Paris Peace Accords, Vietnam diplomacy promoted its role as an important front with active and positive contributions to ending the war and restoring peace in Vietnam. During the 1968 – 1973 period, paralleling the military and political fronts, Vietnam diplomacy launched the “Ho Chi Minh campaign in the heart of Paris” with an iron will of victory despite numerous challenges. That was one of the fiercest confrontations in the 20th century between Vietnam, a small nation, with America, a world leading power; between an immature and developing diplomacy of Vietnam and the US strong, professional and experienced counterpart.

Meanwhile, international backdrop saw many complications. The confrontation between the two superpowers, namely the USSR and the US, was mixed with “tensions” and “concessions” due to their own calculations for national interests, considerably impacting on our struggle. The US managed to take advantage of the contradiction between the USSR and China to separate socialist countries and prevent the support from these countries (mainly the USSR and China) for Vietnam.

Against such backdrop, on 13th May 1968, negotiations began in Paris. Though there were times of deadlock during the talks, our diplomats were not discouraged. Instead, they kept on fighting persistently without any concessions. It was national interests and their belief in the final victory of our resistance war that helped them overcome all the difficulties in the negotiation rounds.

Since the mid of 1972, when the talks were tense, the US administration tried to employ their shuttle diplomacy policy, making concession to major countries to isolate Vietnam, draw the negotiations in their favour and force us to accept their unreasonable claims. More severely, to break the deadlock, the US deployed B-52 bombers carpeting as many as 100,000 tons of bombs onto northern provinces of Vietnam, particularly Hanoi and Hai Phong from 18th to 30th December 1972. However, they did not get the expected results. The strong will and determination of the whole Party, Army and people have brought about the historic victory of “Dien Bien Phu in the air”. This decisive victory forced the US President R. Nixon to stop their air raids and sit in the negotiation in Paris with Vietnam’s delegation to sign to an agreement ending the war.

The Paris Peace Accords, signed in 1973, excited progressive people all around the world and affirmed the strength and the determination to win of our Party and nation in general and of Vietnamese diplomats in particular.

The signing of the Paris Peace Accords on January 27th 1973 (file photo)

The intellectual peak of Vietnam’s diplomacy

The victory of the Paris Peace Accords stemmed from the victory of the resistance war against the US imperialists of our people under the leadership of the Party. Besides, it was also the result of the activeness, creativity, capability and intellect of Vietnam’s diplomacy in the Ho Chi Minh era.

First, the victory was resulted from our skillful and flexible application of the principle of “firm in objectives, flexible in strategies and tactics” which had been given out by President Ho Chi Minh since the 1945 – 1946 period. Accordingly, “independent sovereignty” and “territorial integrity” are firm objectives. The US imperialists invaded the South of Vietnam, so they would have to end their invasion and withdraw their troops unconditionally. This was our demand that we persistently insisted on during the negotiations despite threats and pressure from them both in military and diplomatic fields, or even bribe. Being firm in objectives but we were flexible in strategies and tactics. We flexibly accepted the existence of two administrations and two armies in the South to respect the principle of self-determination. This is the realization of the guideline of “fight for the US withdrawal” and “fight for the collapse of the puppet regime” pointed out by President Ho Chi Minh. The Paris Peace Accords were a result of Vietnamese diplomacy’s adherence to the principle of firm objectives, flexible strategies and tactics.

The Paris Peace Accords were resulted from the application of the art of combining fight and negotiation. Right at the beginning of the war, our Party considered diplomacy a front paralleling the political and military ones and combined fighting with negotiation closely. We not only fostered external activities to make socialist countries understand and support our strategy of “fighting and negotiating” but also kept steadfast in the strategy when the US tried to sabotage and devalue the conference causing diplomatic deadlock. During the negotiations, we leveraged every chance to condemn the US aggression and earn the support of peace lovers worldwide, including American citizens. The “fight and negotiation” art reached its peak when in March 1972, the US unilaterally stopped the negotiations indefinitely and carried out its air raids in the North of Vietnam with unprecedented scale with the aim of forcing us to make concession. However, the Party Central Committee advocated continuing the conference to earn international support and to carry out diplomatic struggle besides our military fights on the battlefield. Grasping the direction, Vietnam’s delegation at the conference actively struggled with the US to resume the negotiations. With the art of “fight and negotiation”, during the talks we forced the US to make concession 5 times. In reality, “gaining victory gradually” was a common thing in wars, but forcing the enemy to make concession gradually was seen at the Paris Conference 1973 only.

The Paris Peace Accords were also resulted from our public diplomacy. Diplomatic struggle through journalism and public mobilisation was a unique feature representing the intellect and stature of Vietnam’s diplomacy which contributed to the signing of the Paris Peace Accords. The Paris Conference lasted nearly 5 years, but the actual duration of negotiation was about 6 to 7 months. The remaining time was spent for public propaganda. We held 500 press releases and thousands of meetings with French and international people in order to mobilise public opinion, promote the justice of our struggle and show our good will for peace. Thereby, we were supported widely by the world community. By this way, we brought the war to American society and turned our war into the war of Vietnamese people and American peace lovers against the aggression of the US. It can be affirmed that in the history of progressive struggling movements in the world, there had been no such a case spreading all over the world, involving various social and political strata, including internationally-recognised and highly influential intellectuals with different modes of force concentration, diversified and effective methods of fighting, and big forums like the Vietnam supporting movement at the Paris Conference.

Nearly half a century has elapsed, but the Paris Peace Accords still provides us with valuable lessons on upholding the national righteousness and peace; on sticking to independence and self-reliance in settling foreign affairs; on creating opportunities and grasping the opportunities; on combining diplomatic struggle with military and political struggles; on leveraging international opinion; on being firm in objectives and flexible in strategies and tactics, and above all, the lesson on the sound leadership of the Party and the right application of Ho Chi Minh’s diplomatic thinking. These lessons are still of value and should be further studied, applied flexibly to enhance the capability, intellect of Vietnam’s diplomacy in the cause of Homeland construction and defence.

Nguyen Quoc Dung, Deputy Foreign Minister

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