On January 27, 1973, representatives of North Vietnam, South Vietnam, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam (which included the Viet Cong), and the United States signed the Paris Peace Accords, leading to the end of the United States’ active military engagement in the Vietnam War.
Though both secret and official peace talks, predominately between the United States and North Vietnam, had been taking place on and off since at least 1968, the breakthrough finally came in 1972. Up until that point, North Vietnam had insisted on an agreement that would ensure a new coalition government, and the U.S. had demanded the withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops from the south—both non-starters for the other side. But in 1972, the North Vietnamese signaled they would be willing to drop their demand for a coalition government, and the U.S agreed that the north could keep their troops in the south.
In October 1972, American diplomats led by Henry Kissinger and a North Vietnamese delegation led by Le Duc Tho created a near-final agreement that led Kissinger to announce that “peace is at hand.” However, the South Vietnamese government, under President Nguyen Van Thieu, found the agreement unacceptable, feeling that the deal did not look after South Vietnamese interests, and the peace talks fell apart in December.
Following the U.S.’s 11-day Christmas bombing campaign at the end of 1972, the North Vietnamese agreed to resume negotiations in January. The final deal, which was not much different than the one agreed to in October, was secured on January 23, 1973. Then the formal peace agreement—officially named the “Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring the Peace in Vietnam,” but informally called the Paris Peace Accords—was signed in Paris on January 27, 1973. Key points of the agreement included a cease-fire, the U.S. withdrawal, and the return of American prisoners of war.
Although from the U.S. perspective the agreement was meant to end the war, it only really ended the U.S.’s active military involvement. In December 1974, the North Vietnamese broke the cease-fire and attacked the south at Phuoc Long. Despite a promise to the south that the U.S. would take retaliatory action if the north violated the peace agreement, the U.S. did not provide the south with military aid. In late April 1975, Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to the north, and the entire country was reunited under a northern, communist government.
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