The support of a strong community

Right from the start of the Paris Conference in May 1968 to the signing of the Paris Agreement on January 27, 1973, overseas Vietnamese in general and members of the Union of Overseas Vietnamese in France (present Overseas Vietnamese Association in France) in particular became a powerful force supporting the two Vietnamese negotiation delegations.

The first thing that the Union of Overseas Vietnamese in France did was teaming with the General Representative (there was no embassy at that time) to find accommodation for the negotiation delegations. They also organized groups in charge of protecting the delegations, providing logistic supply and interpreting, among others.

Overseas Vietnamese in France congratulate the signing of the Paris Agreement on January 27, 1973. (An archived photo of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

They provided information about the world situation, world opinion about the national struggle for the two delegations. In addition, they joined rallies, marches with French friends and those from neighboring countries to voice their support to Vietnam’s stance in Paris negotiations; organized artistic performances to introduce Vietnamese culture.

In the book “Ho Chi Minh Campaign in the heart of Paris” published by the People’s Army Publishing House in April 2005, Ambassador Vo Van Sung wrote about the contribution of overseas Vietnamese during the negotiation process and in the 1968-1975 period. The book read “I think it is not exaggerating to say that the Union of Overseas Vietnamese was a special “corps” of our diplomatic and political fronts in France and in neighboring Western European countries.”

Regarding such special “corps,” Prof., Dr., Ambassador Vu Duong Huan said that the overseas Vietnamese community at that time had some 2 to 3 million people and most of the Vietnamese in France were patriotic. Many famous intellectuals in France, such as Huynh Trung Dong, Hélène Luc, assisted two Vietnamese delegations with interpretation, translation, and document printing, and more. They even made preparations for meetings with the press professionally. They took the lead in rallies, demonstrations to support, disseminate and spread our standpoints to the French people. They also provided material and technical supplies as well. Attentively, some even quitted their jobs for 5 years in a row to give support to the delegations at any time.

Apart from France, they also held contacts, campaigned and disseminated information in many other European countries. Overseas Vietnamese were the bridge between the two Vietnamese delegations and French friends and government.

After the Paris Agreement was signed, overseas Vietnamese continued to contribute to the implementation of the accords, and criticize the U.S. and Saigon government for breaking it.

Noble international solidarity

Alongside the assistance from overseas Vietnamese, the Vietnamese negotiation delegations also received valuable support from the French President, many political parties, organizations and French people from all walks of life. The French Communist Party lent the Vietnamese delegation its Party School as its headquarters for nearly 5 years. It also lent a number of facilities to serve as private meeting places with the U.S. side and sent people to help with travel, accommodation, and more. Leading the French government, the French President, Charles de Gaulle, was knowledgeable about Vietnam.

The situation about the resistance war at home, especially the statements about the solutions at the negotiating table, were widely spread through the international press and television. Organizations in solidarity with Vietnam in countries from Europe, Asia, Africa, to Latin America and many people worldwide took to streets to express their support for Vietnam and condemn the U.S.-raged war in Vietnam.

All of them, from all walks of life, not only progressive communists, peace and justice loving forces, intellectuals, and religious people, but also those who were “afraid of communists,” “did not like communists” became a powerful political force, increasingly impacting the U.S. government’s policies and views of other governments in the world on the U.S. war in Vietnam. 

Journalist Ha Dang recalled his business trip to England in October 1972 with Binh Thanh, female interpreter of the head delegate Nguyen Thi Binh, during which, a member of the British Communist Party took both to visit a union under the British Labor Party. Knowing that they were members of the delegation of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam, a black man raised a question that “why do you keep fighting when the U.S. wants to end the war, the North Vietnamese delegate?”

“I immediately corrected the question that we were members of the Southern delegation and affirmed that the U.S. did not want to either end the war or negotiate. They in fact went against negotiations. When he understood, he sincerely apologized,” journalist Ha Dang said.

He went on “At that time, the member of the British Communist Party suggested those present take action to support the Vietnamese friends. He took a cup and put a few shillings in it. Everyone followed suit, raising dozens of pounds. When we were about to return to Paris, he used the raised money to buy us air tickets. That sentiment I will never forget.”

After nearly 5 years, with 202 public meetings and 45 private meetings, on January 27, 1973, the Paris Agreement was signed, marking an important turning point in our troops and people’s struggle against the U.S. imperialists for national salvation. Regarding this victory, Ambassador Nguyen Phuong Nga, President of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations affirmed that the victory at the Paris negotiating table on ending the war and restoring peace in Vietnam in 1973 was a brilliant milestone in the history of Vietnam’s diplomacy and in the struggle for national building and safeguarding. That was the first time that Vietnam, an independent and sovereign country, conducted negotiations with a country which was a member of the United Nations Security Council.

That was the balanced combination between “fighting” and “negotiating,” between the struggle at the negotiating table and victory on the battlefield and victory in defending the achievements gained by the North. That success proved the strength of Vietnam’s diplomacy, which was a combination of many factors, including the smooth coordination between the strength of the nation and the strength of the times, between the national will and the aspiration of the world people for peace, national independence, and the strength of international solidarity.

Translated by Mai Huong