Values drawn from resolving issues in a peace accords

From the early morning of September 23, 1945, when the Cay Mai conference in Saigon launched the resistance in the South, to the evening of July 20, 1954, when the Geneva Accords on Indochina was signed, the Vietnamese people’s resistance against France lasted for 8 years, 11 months, and 27 days.
Values drawn from resolving issues in a peace accords
General Vo Nguyen Giap in a meeting to study plans to attack Dien Bien Phu, May 1954. (Photo: VNA)

Entering negotiations

That journey culminated with the victory at Dien Bien Phu, which stands as one of the most pivotal milestones. It was on the afternoon of May 7, 1954, just a day before the opening of the Geneva Conference (May 8, 1954), when the Viet Minh forces completely destroyed the French stronghold at Dien Bien Phu.

To Huu, the great poet, transformed this event, one of the most historically significant of the 20th century, into a profound poem named: “Hooray Dien Bien soldiers”, heralding it to the Western skies. It is where “Tomorrow, the struggle begins” on the negotiation table: “Comrade Pham Van Dong. A sleepless night lies ahead. Here comes the news, Dien Bien Phu is a success”.

The victory at Dien Bien Phu not only marked a remarkable leap in maturity for the Vietnamese People’s Army but also salvaged the Geneva Conference, enabling it to proceed as originally planned to address the restoration of peace in the Korean Peninsula and Indochina.

Right after the Geneva Accords were signed, in his proclamation on July 22, 1954, President Ho Chi Minh wrote: “The Geneva Conference ended. Vietnamese diplomacy earned a big win”. He also determined that: “From now on, we must strive to consolidate peace, achieve unity, and complete independence and democracy nationwide.”

General Vo Nguyen Giap, the Commander-in-Chief who had just won the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, provided a detailed analysis of the content of the Geneva Accords in his report to the National Assembly during its fourth session on March 20, 1955.

The Accords stipulated “necessary provisions to cease the war and re-establish peace”, “necessary provisions to consolidate peace, prevent the recurrence of war, and prevent a new preparation of war”, and “necessary provisions to resolve fundamental political issues” regarding the independence and unity of the three countries Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

Four provisions - Four problems of the century

The Geneva Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Indochina consists of 6 chapters and 47 articles, including 4 particularly important provisions considered as unprecedented challenges of the century, which Vietnam had to address:

Article 1 of the Geneva Accords primarily focuses on the cessation of hostilities in Vietnam, which states: “A provisional military demarcation line shall be fixed, on either side of which the forces of the two parties shall be regrouped after their withdrawal”.

However, the United States and the government of South Vietnam turned the 17th parallel into a “border,” deliberately violating and undermining the Accords, dividing the territory of Vietnam. This goes against the peaceful reunification aspirations of the people of both North and South Vietnam.

As one of the four territories divided at the time, Vietnam upheld the determination that “National reunification is the path to survival for our people” and pursued a peaceful reunification policy. The victory of the 1975 Spring Offensive swept away all obstacles on the path to peace. North and South Vietnam then conducted the Consultative Conference in Saigon, paving the way for national reunification on a state level.

Values drawn from resolving issues in a peace accords
Prime Minister Pham Van Dong received two Polish Ambassadors in Hanoi and in the International Commission for Supervision and Control the Implementation of the Geneva Agreements, October 1969. (Photo: VNA)

Article 4 also states: “The provisional military demarcation line between the two final regrouping zones is extended into the territorial waters by a line perpendicular to the general line of the coast.”

The US and the government of South Vietnam administered the maritime areas of Vietnam, including the Paracel and Spratly archipelagoes, but they failed to prevent the ambitions of countries in the South China Sea. Therefore, when Vietnam focused on the task of liberating the South for national reunification, the maritime issue remained unresolved.

Article 19 of the Accords says: “no military base under the control of a foreign State may be established in the re-grouping zone of either party; the two parties shall ensure that the zones assigned to them do not adhere to any military alliance and are not used for the resumption of hostilities or to further an aggressive policy.”

Despite this, the United States poured weapons and war machineries into South Vietnam, turning it into a military base and a springboard for attacking the North and the socialist system.

Vietnam was forced to conduct a resistance war against the new colonial war strategies of the United States and its allies, ultimately compelling the U.S. to unilaterally sign the Paris Agreement in 1973 and withdraw its troops. In the Spring of 1975, with the strength of “one day equal to twenty years,” Vietnam completely defeated the invading ambitions of the United States, thus ending the war.

Article 27 stipulates: “The signatories of the present Agreement and their successors in their functions shall be responsible for ensuring the observance and enforcement of the terms and provisions thereof.”

However, the United States and the Saigon regime shirked their responsibilities by occupying half of the country and imposing a authoritarian regime over the South. They unilaterally established the Republic of Vietnam regime, constructing a government and military as instruments of the new American imperialism.

Nevertheless, the Vietnamese people remained resolute and steadfast in their struggle, overcoming all obstacles on the path to liberating the South and achieving peace and national unity.

The lessons remain

The Geneva Accords “shattered the plans to prolong and expand the war of the American empire and the bellicose colonialism of France... It ended the colonial domination of France in the

North, fully liberating the people of the North, and created favorable conditions for the subsequent peace-building efforts in Vietnam. At the same time, it laid the foundation for advancing one step closer to the realization of unity, independence, and democracy nationwide

Over the course of more than 20 years in resolving these four monumental challenges, Vietnam has added heroic chapters to its history, which have been distilled into significant lessons

First, it’s the lesson on steadfastly pursuing a policy of national peace and unification. Despite having to wage prolonged resistance wars, the primary and overarching goal remained peace, leading towards national reunification.

Values drawn from resolving issues in a peace accords
The flag "Determined to fight, Determined to win" on the roof of the General De Castries's bunker on May 7, 1954. (Photo: VNA)

Second, it’s the lesson on refusing to succumb to the might of invasive warfare, even when faced with the strength of a powerful international coalition, fully equipped with proxy forces perpetuating the insidious and ruthless new colonial wars.

Third, it’s the lesson on leveraging international law, recognizing at an early stage the self-interests and ambitions of major powers, ultilizing specific conditions and circumstances to end invasive wars and continue the struggle to safeguard Vietnam’s sovereignty, both on land and at sea.

Our righteous war compelled invasive war to negotiate and sign peace agreements, true peace was only achieved when the entire nation resolutely fought for “peace, unity, independence, democracy, and prosperity.”

Today, on the path to “independence, democracy, and prosperity,” Vietnam not only ensures “peace and unity” for the Fatherland but also actively contributes to the preservation of world peace.

After the Geneva Conference concluded, with direct support from the United States, the government of Ngo Dinh Diem blatantly refused to enforce the Accords, harboring long-term plans to divide Viet Nam.

On August 9, 1955, the Saigon government officially rejected the proposal from the Government of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam (DRVN) to hold a Consultative Conference between the two regions.

In accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Agreement, on July 19, 1955, the President and Prime Minister of the DRVN sent a letter to the Head of State and Prime Minister of the Republic of Vietnam (Saigon government), proposing that representatives from both regions convene a Consultative Conference starting from July 20 to discuss the organization of nationwide elections for reunification.

However, the Saigon government rejected this proposal repeatedly. It became increasingly evident that the United States and the Ngo Dinh Diem regime were plotting to permanently divide Viet Nam into two separate countries.

This intention was further manifested when, on January 23, 1957, at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, the United States proposed for South Viet Nam and South Korea to become member countries of the United Nations.

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