Paris Peace Accords remembered: diplomatic negotiations at Camp Davis
50 years after the signing of the Paris Accords, witnesses at Camp Davis recall how Vietnam’s diplomatic delegations contributed to making U.S. forces withdraw from South Vietnam.
Photo: A meeting between four parties at Camp Davies in southern Vietnam in 1973. Photo by VNA
By Son Ha
At a conference on Tuesday discussing the implementation of the Paris Peace Accords signed in January 1973, witnesses at Camp Davis spoke about how the diplomatic negotiations forced the U.S. to abide by the terms of the Accords.
The Accords were signed by four parties: the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam; the government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam; the United States; and the Republic of Vietnam.
They covered nine chapters and 23 articles, whose terms included that the United States respect the right of self-determination of the people of South Vietnam, stop military engagement and interference in internal affairs of South Vietnam, and that the United States must have all troops retreat within 60 days.
Camp Davis was the workplace of military delegations of all four parties, as well as the place of accommodation for delegates of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam and the government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
The Joint Military Commission, made up of members of all the parties, had to ensure that parties were coordinated to conduct military terms as stated in the Accords.
Dao Chi Cong, external affairs officer of the delegation office of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam, said the workload was great, while the regime in Saigon constantly tried to sabotage efforts to get anything done.
When the delegation flew from Hanoi to the Tan Son Nhat Airport in Saigon in January 1973, they were surrounded by guards and were requested to complete immigration procedures. It was an attempt to make them implicitly acknowledge that the Republic of Vietnam was a country of its own.
“It was a request that did not make sense, that violated the terms of the Paris Accords, as Vietnam was a unified country,” Cong said, adding that the delegation stayed on the plane for over a day to protest. By evening the next day, after interference from the United States, the Saigon regime had to rescind the request.
Camp Davis, an abandoned camp of the U.S. army, lay in the southwest of the Tan Son Nhat Airport (now in Ward 4 of HCMC’s Tan Binh District). The area was isolated by the Saigon regime, with barbed wires erected around them, preventing the Joint Military Commission from making contact with the people of South Vietnam.
Around the camp, multiple jamming and eavesdropping devices were installed to monitor and disrupt communication.
Such devices were also found embedded within the walls themselves. The Saigon regime even deployed armed troops around the camp as a psychological tactic.
“On the outside, we were working normally, producing things and exercising. But on the inside, we made use of the noises from plane engines to dig into the floor and make tunnels, preparing for the General Offensive. Camp Davis, therefore, became a tunnel system,” Cong said.
The delegation also secretly kept in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which cooperated to render the jammers ineffective. Thanks to that, communication with Hanoi remained safe and smooth.
Dinh Quoc Ky, communication officer of the delegation, said the United States and the Saigon regime often deployed people to monitor and exploit the weaknesses of each officer, aiming to disrupt coordination.
“However, Vietnamese officers were all chosen carefully and had political integrity, so no one was swayed,” Ky said.
The camp became an “underground fortress” with the Joint Military Commission staying updated on the situations of the battlefield to plan and conduct missions.
The delegation helped hasten the release of prisoners from all parties, as well as forcing the United States. and its allies to withdraw all troops from South Vietnam on March 29, 1973.
It was an important factor that shifted the scale of balance on the battlefield, becoming a turning point in unifying the country.
Not long after the United States left Vietnam, the delegation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam followed suit. The military delegation of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam stayed at the camp until April 30, 1975.