The United States began their involvement in Vietnam in 1954 and over the years crept further into the conflict until over half a million troops were in Vietnam in 1968. Consequently, this escalation forced both sides to become more entrenched in their positions. From 1965 – 1967, American officials repeatedly attempted to initiate peace talks with North Vietnam. Hanoi, however, refused to negotiate instead opting to wait for the American people to tire of the war. Neither side had achieved victory or defeat, nor were they willing to soften their demands so the war escalated. After years of stalemate both sides finally decided to begin negotiations. On May 13, 1968 the United States and North Vietnam finally began formal talks in Paris. The talks were immediately deadlocked as both sides continued to refuse to compromise. In late 1968 the talks appeared to be making headway, and President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered a bombing halt in an endeavor to make peace before the election. However, South Vietnam’s president, President Nguyen Van Thieu, gave President Johnson an "October Surprise." He changed his mind about taking part in the negotiations and instead opted to wait for the election to end, in the hopes that the Republican nominee, Richard Nixon, would be a better ally.
Under President Nixon the United States attempted to end its involvement in Vietnam. President Nixon was committed to a "peace with honor" in Vietnam. Under President Nixon the war escalated again when the United States began operations in Cambodia and Laos. During this time he began reaching out to the North Vietnamese through the French. The secret peace talks began in 1969 and both sides remained obstinate in their demands. By the summer of 1972 there had been little to no change in the US or North Vietnamese positions. President Nixon, however, had spent the year—along with Henry Kissinger—opening up diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China [PRC]. They were also able to use that new relationship to parlay improved relations with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics [USSR]. President Nixon hoped to pressure North Vietnam into a settlement with the help of the USSR and PRC.
On May 8, 1972 President Nixon authorized Operation Linebacker which was an escalation of the air war against North Vietnam in retaliation for their Spring Offensive against South Vietnam. President Nixon went before the nation to explain this dramatic escalation and to also lay out a new ground work for peace. The terms laid out by President Nixon was a major change in the US demands. Instead of demanding that the North Vietnamese withdraw from South Vietnam he called for an internationally supervised ceasefire-in-place and he shortened the time of American withdrawal from South Vietnam from six months to four. Despite, this change in policy the Paris peace talks continued to be unproductive until October 1972.
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