After five years of tense negotiations, the Paris Peace Accords (officially titled the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam) were signed between the two conflicting sides of the Second Indochina War on 27 January 1973 at the Majestic Hotel in Paris. Those included as signatories of the treaty were the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV), the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG), the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) and the United States. The main negotiators of the agreement were United States National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese politburo member Lê Đức Thọ; the two men were awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts, although Lê Đức Thọ refused to accept it.
With the overall aim of resolving the conflict in Vietnam and bringing peace to the country, the Accords would in effect remove all remaining US combat forces, including air and naval forces, in exchange for the release of American POWs being held in Hanoi. It was also agreed that direct US military intervention would end.
The final document began with the statement that “the United States and all other countries respect the independence, sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of Vietnam as recognized by the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Vietnam”. The inclusion of this provision was considered a victory for the communist DRV and PRG parties towards a political settlement that would allow the South Vietnamese people to “decide themselves the political future of South Viet-Nam through genuinely free and democratic general elections under international supervision.”
Other conditions included:
- Reunification of Vietnam was to be “carried out step by step through peaceful means”.
- If South Vietnam required any military hardware to defend itself against any North Vietnam aggression, the United States agreed to provide replacement aid to South Vietnam on a piece-by-piece, one-to-one replacement basis.
However, the agreement was not ratified by the United States Senate, which signified the treaty’s less than binding nature. Kissinger and Thọ had met on 23 January 1973 and signed off on a treaty that was basically identical to a draft reached three months earlier, in which Thọ had significantly modified his bargaining line after feeling the pressure of isolation from President Nixon’s détente policy being relatively successful in developing relations with the Soviet Union and China. Despite the gains claimed by the Accords, the final treaty allowed the Saigon government to remain in power and that negotiations between the two South Vietnamese parties (PRG and RVN) could develop a final settlement.
Fighting between the three remaining powers temporarily stopped for less than a day, but the agreement’s provisions were frequently broken thereafter, with no response from the United States. Fighting broke out in March 1973 and North Vietnamese offences enlarged their control of areas of South Vietnam by the end of the year. In 1975, The North Vietnamese Ho Chi Minh Campaign offensive conquered South Vietnam and precipitated the Fall of Saigon.