The Paris Peace Talks were signed in 1973 by the governments of North Vietnam,
South Vietnam, and the United States with the intent to establish peace in Vietnam. The Provisional Revolutionary Government
of the Republic of South Vietnam, created by the National Liberation Front (NLF), was treated as an independent party during
these negotiations. The existing South Vietnamese government under Ngo Dinh Diem regarded the NLF, commonly referred to as
Viet Cong, as agents of the Communist government of North Vietnam, and thus not a sovereign party. The North similarly viewed
the Southern government as an agent and puppet of the United States, and similarly non-sovereign. Johnson thus began to negotiate
unilaterally with the Northern government until he left office.
After Nixon's election, problems still continued. For many months the North
and South famously debated over the shape of the table that would be used at the Paris Peace Conference. The North favored
a circular table, in which all parties, including NLF representatives, would appear to be equal in importance. The South argued
that only a rectangular table was acceptable, for only a rectangle could show two distinct sides to the conflict, the North
and South. Eventually a compromise was reached, in which representatives of the North and South government would sit at a
circular table, with members representing all other parties sitting on individual square tables around them.
A treaty was finally signed on January 27, 1973. All parties pledged to "respect
the independence, sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of Vietnam as recognized by the 1954 Geneva Agreements on
Vietnam." The United States agreed to continue its withdrawal of troops, which had started in 1969, leading to a complete
withdrawal by March 29, 1973.
The treaty's terms were unpopular with many in president Nguyen Van Thieu's
Southern government. Thieu's main objection was that North Vietnamese troops were permitted to remain in areas they controlled
in the South. Moreover, Thieu felt the sudden withdrawal of American forces would cripple their military strength, leaving
them vulnerable if the North decided to violate the cease-fire. In 1975 this proved true, and the Northern government successfully
invaded and conquered the South.