Abstract

After the Tet Offensive of early 1968, Hanoi agreed to hold talks with U.S. representatives in Paris. The North Vietnamese, however, used the resulting talks with the Johnson administration not to negotiate in any traditional sense but to probe the intentions of Washington and to manipulate domestic and world opinion. Hanoi continued this charade for approximately a year, until domestic and international circumstances forced a meaningful reassessment of its position on a negotiated settlement of the war with the United States. This article explores that reassessment, as well as the evolution of North Vietnam's diplomatic strategy thereafter. Specifically, it considers the factors that conditioned the thinking and policies of Vietnamese Communist leaders, including the balance of forces below the seventeenth parallel and the behavior of close allies in Beijing and Moscow vis-à-vis the United States. The article proposes that military and economic setbacks in the South and in the North combined with recognition of the limits of socialist solidarity forced Hanoi to talk secretly and then to negotiate seriously with the Nixon administration and, ultimately, to accept a peace settlement that fell far short of the goals set by the Vietnamese Communists at the onset of the war.

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