340. Editorial Note

In Paris on January 27, 1973, Secretary of State William P. Rogers, on behalf of the United States, signed the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam. In fact, he signed two agreements that were exactly the same except for the preamble and the signing paragraphs.

In the morning Rogers signed the four-party agreement. The four parties were the United States and the Republic of (South) Vietnam on [Page 1182] the one hand and the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) on the other. Since South Vietnam did not recognize North Vietnam or the PRG and refused to refer to the latter by name, the only way to obtain South Vietnam’s signature on the agreement, and that of the others as well, and to give the agreement legal force, was for the United States and South Vietnam to sign on one page and the two Communist entities to sign on another. The United States and South Vietnam could then call the agreement two-sided, one in which the PRG was, as one newspaper had it, “a mere adjunct” of North Vietnam. At the same time, since all four had signed, albeit on two separate pages, the Communists could characterize it as four-sided, and thus an “agreement among four Governments of equal standing.” (Flora Lewis, “How Compromise Was Reached,” The New York Times, January 25, 1973, page 23) South Vietnam had also insisted, successfully, that the term Provisional Revolutionary Government appear nowhere in the text.

In the afternoon, Rogers signed the two-party agreement. Although all four parties were named in the preamble and in the last paragraph of the document, only Rogers, for the United States, and Foreign Minister Nguyen Duy Trinh, for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, actually signed it. Consequently, the South Vietnamese, though a party to the agreement, could say that because they had not signed the agreement, they had not in any way legitimated or recognized the Provisional Revolutionary Government.

In his press conference on January 24, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs, Henry A. Kissinger, said: “The reason for this somewhat convoluted procedure is that while the agreement provides that the two South Vietnamese parties should settle their disputes in an atmosphere of national reconciliation and concord, I think it is safe to say that they have not yet quite reached that point, indeed, that they have not yet been prepared to recognize each other’s existence.” (Department of State Bulletin, February 12, 1973, page 160; also The New York Times, January 25, 1973, pages 19–21)

The text of the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, along with four implementing protocols, is widely available from public and private sources. Contemporary sources included the Department of State Bulletin, February 12, 1973, pages 169–188, which has both the two-party and the four-party agreements; and The New York Times, January 25, 1973, pages 15–17. The texts are also reproduced in the English language edition of Luu and Nguyen’s Le Duc ThoKissinger Negotiations in Paris, pages 479–545 (1995 edition); in Sixty Days to Peace by Scott Dillard, pages 187–225; and in A Bitter Peace: Washington, Hanoi, and the Makings of the Paris Agreement by Pierre Asselin, pages 203–216.