Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
Teaser Image

Le Duc Tho (1911–1990)

Vietnamese revolutionary, member of the Vietnamese Communist Party's Political Bureau, and chief negotiator at the Paris Peace Talks. Le Duc Tho was born Phan Dinh Khai in Nam Ha Province on 14 October 1911. He became active in communist political circles at a young age and in 1930 helped found the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP). During the 1930s he spent nearly a decade in prison for his anti-French political activities. In 1945 he helped form the nationalist Viet Minh organization with Ho Chi Minh and from the late 1950s largely directed the war in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN, South Vietnam). According to some sources, Le's views actually prevailed over those of Ho.

Le is primarily remembered for his role in the Paris Peace Talks with the United States, which began in May 1968. He demanded an immediate halt to U.S. bombing of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV, North Vietnam) and the dismantlement of South Vietnam's government. American negotiators, especially National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, refused these demands. The negotiations and the bombings continued until 1972, when Le and Kissinger agreed to a cease-fire. Le again requested a halt to the bombings, but he softened his stance on Vietnam's political self-determination. He eventually accepted a cease-fire that would leave South Vietnam's President Nguyen Van Thieu in power but that also allowed North Vietnam's People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) troops to remain in parts of South Vietnam. The final peace agreement was signed in early January 1973. The United States withdrew its troops in March of that year. Late in 1973 the Nobel Prize Committee awarded both Le and Kissinger its peace prize, which Le refused to accept because the war continued.

In 1975 Le traveled to South Vietnam to oversee the final offensive there, which resulted in the unification of the country in April 1975. Between 1975 and 1986 he continued as a member of the Vietnamese Communist Party Central Committee. In 1978 he oversaw Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia. His power diminished in the mid-1980s, and following the economic reforms of 1986 he resigned his posts. Le died in Hanoi on 13 October 1990.

Brian D. Behnken


Further Reading
Tucker, Spencer C. Vietnam. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1999.; Young, Marilyn. The Vietnam Wars, 1945–1990. New York: HarperPerennial, 1991.
 

©2011 ABC-CLIO. All rights reserved.

  About the Author/Editor
  Introduction
  Essays
  A
  B
  C
  D
  E
  F
  G
  H
  I
  J
  K
  L
  M
  N
  O
  P
  Q
  R
  S
  T
  U
  V
  W
  Y
  Z
  Z
  Documents
  Images
ABC-cLIO Footer