Paris Peace Accords through insider's accounts

January 17, 2023 - 12:41
The Paris Peace Accords marked a brilliant milestone in the history of Vietnamese revolutionary diplomacy in the Hồ Chí Minh era. Fifty years have passed since the accord was signed, yet the lessons of international solidarity and independence are still valid today. This tremendous victory was not only for the Vietnamese people but also for peace lovers around the globe.
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Head of the Negotiation Delegation of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam at the Paris Peace Conference Nguyễn Thị Bình signed the Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973. VNA/VNS Photo Văn Lượng

HÀ NỘI —The signing of the Paris Peace Accords on ending the war and restoring peace in Việt Nam on January 27, 1973, created a new turning point in the Vietnamese nation’s resistance war against the US imperialists to liberate the south and unify the country.

The agreement marked a brilliant milestone in the history of Vietnamese revolutionary diplomacy in the Hồ Chí Minh era. Fifty years have passed since the accord was signed, yet the lessons of international solidarity and independence are still valid today. This tremendous victory was not only for the Vietnamese people but also for peace lovers around the globe.

The arduous and protracted negotiations over the treaty, dubbed a 'brain battle' in the history of world diplomacy at that time, left deep imprints in the minds of those directly involved in the process and contributed to the successful conclusion of the agreement.

As for peace-loving international friends who stood side-by-side with the Vietnamese people and wholeheartedly supported the country’s struggle for national liberation and independence, the Paris agreement was eloquent proof of the truth as stated in a proclamation of the victory of the Vietnamese nation: “A just cause always prevails over tyranny; compassion is the virtue to embrace in place of violence.”

In that sense, the Paris agreement serves as an inspiration for progressive, peace, and justice lovers around the world in their struggle for national independence, freedom, equality, and fraternity and reinforces the belief of oppressed nations.

Phạm Ngạc, former Director of the Department of International Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, could not hide his emotion when reminiscing about his assignment as an English-language interpreter and rapporteur of both closed-door and public meetings during the five years of negotiations from mid-May 1968 to the end of January 1973 when the treaty was signed.

Recalling the tough negotiations, Ngạc, one of the youngest members of the Vietnamese delegation, said tensions had risen right from the selection of the venue for negotiations. The Vietnamese side wanted to take Paris, where the movement of international friends in support of its anti-American resistance war was significant and where many patriotic compatriots lived. In contrast, the American side insisted on location in Southeast Asia.

The nine-chapter, 23-article agreement was finally signed on January 27, 1973, after nearly five years of negotiations, with 201 public meetings, 45 high-level private meetings, 24 secret meetings, 500 press conferences, and 1,000 interviews, besides hundreds of demonstrations by international friends from all over the world against the war and in support of the Vietnamese people’s struggle for national independence.

In an interview with the Vietnam News Agency, George Burchett, son of President Hồ Chí Minh’s close friend, Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett (1911-1983), said Việt Nam’s struggle for national independence, freedom and reunification was also the Burchetts'.

Wilfred Burchett is well-known in Việt Nam because he was a great friend of the Vietnamese people during the two resistance wars against foreign invaders. He was present at all hotspots, from Điện Biên Phủ to Thái Nguyên safety zone, from Hà Nội to the Củ Chi tunnels and other bases of the National Front for the Liberation of the South of Vietnam, to report on the wars and the just struggle of the Vietnamese people.

George Burchett, son of journalist Wilfred Burchett, poses for a photo next to his father's portrait at the Ho Chi Minh Museum. Photo

George Burchett, a painter familiar to many Vietnamese people, said his parents moved to Hà Nội after the Geneva Agreement was signed in 1954. He was born in May 1955 in the capital, the day the last French soldiers boarded a ship to leave Hải Phòng for the south.

“So, even my birthday connects me to Vietnamese history,” he said.

George lived in Việt Nam until he was two years old, then moved with his family first to the Soviet Union, then Cambodia, France, and Bulgaria, before returning to Australia to settle down at the age of 30. However, his father’s stories, reports, photos, and videos about Việt Nam made it hard for George’s memories to fade.

“I was born into it, and I grew up with it through my father’s stories, writings, photographs, films, and so on,” he said.

George said that his father met President Hồ Chí Minh for the first time in his jungle headquarters in Thái Nguyên in March 1954, right before the start of the Điện Biên Phủ campaign. Wilfred entered Hà Nội with advanced units of the Liberation Army in October of the same year and witnessed the French tricolour coming down and Việt Nam’s red flag with a golden star going up everywhere in the capital. The reporter left Việt Nam in 1956, only to later return to the country time and time again to write about the Vietnamese people’s struggle for independence, and became the first Western journalist to visit the liberated zone of South Việt Nam in 1963-1964.

The signing of the Paris Peace Accords on ending the war and restoring peace in Việt Nam on January 27, 1973. VNA/VNS Photo Văn Lượng

In his career as a journalist, Wilfred had nearly 30 years of deep attachment to Việt Nam. He wrote eight books and hundreds of articles and took thousands of photos. His articles were printed in global newspapers, reflecting the Vietnamese people's struggle for independence, freedom, and national reunification.

George said that 50 years after the signing of the Paris agreement, Việt Nam is now “at peace, united, truly independent, and rapidly developing.”

“Việt Nam is a socialist country with high literacy, good healthcare, reasonable social equality, and no divisions along religious, ethnic, political, or other lines.”

He also hailed Việt Nam’s rapid development and rich traditional and contemporary culture.

As an artist living in Hà Nội, he feels honoured and proud to actively participate in Việt Nam’s vibrant contemporary culture by preserving the historical memory and developing new ideas.

“Việt Nam is a stable society that has every reason to look confidently to the future,” he said.

In a similar vein, while speaking to the Vietnam News Agency, American journalist Amiad Horowitz, a member of the Communist Party of America (CPUSA), expressed his appreciation of the role the Communist Party of Việt Nam (CPV) played in negotiating the Paris agreement, calling it a key factor ensuring the success for Việt Nam.

“Under the leadership of the CPV, Việt Nam managed to defeat the US military and achieve all of its goals, leading to the eventual reunification of Việt Nam,” he said. “It was because of the CPV’s leadership that the people of Việt Nam were able to stand strong for all those years, to fight against the mightiest army in the world.”

The journalist attributed the successful leadership of the CPV to the Party’s deep connection with the people in all fields, from education and training to humanitarian work.

“This strength also allowed the CPV to negotiate a successful settlement at the Paris Peace Conference,” he said.

Though born after 1975, Amiad is aware of the crimes committed by the US military against the Vietnamese people during the war.

“From its support of the cruel puppet government, the bombing of civilians, and the use of chemical weapons, the US war in Việt Nam is one of the great crimes of the 20th century,” he said.

However, under the wise leadership of the Party, the Vietnamese people defeated the US army and reunified the country, he added.

Referring to the significance of the Paris Peace Accords, Amiad said that half a century later, the document still marked a great victory in Việt Nam’s political, military, and diplomatic struggle, as well as the victory of the world people’s movement in support of the Vietnamese people.

With the world's unprecedented strong and widespread support, the Vietnamese people's heroic and staunch struggle eventually forced the US government to the negotiating table and signed the Paris agreement.

Victory in the Paris agreement and in the resistance war against the US by the Vietnamese people is one of conscience and belief in justice, and marks a great victory for the liberation movement of peace-loving people around the world. VNA/VNS