After secret negotiations between U.S. emissary Henry A. Kissinger and North Vietnamese representative Le Duc Tho in 1972, Nixon engaged in diplomatic maneuvering with China and the USSR—and stepped up bombing of North Vietnam—to pressure the North Vietnamese into a settlement. The Paris Peace Accordswere finally signed in January 1973, and the last U.S. military personnel left Vietnam in March 1973.
Under the terms of the agreement, Nixon pledged to withdraw all remaining military personnel from Vietnam and allow the tens of thousands of NVA troops in South Vietnam to remain there, despite the fact that they controlled a quarter of South Vietnamese territory. However, Nixon promised to intervene if North Vietnam moved against the South. In exchange, North Vietnam promised that elections would be held to determine the fate of the entire country. Although Nixon insisted that the agreement brought “peace with honor,” South Vietnamese leaders complained that the terms amounted to little more than a surrender for South Vietnam.
The U.S. government continued to fund the South Vietnamese army, but this funding quickly dwindled. Meanwhile, as President Nixon became embroiled in the Watergate scandalthat led to his resignation in August 1974, North Vietnamese forces stepped up their attacks on the South and finally launched an all-out offensive in the spring of 1975. On April 30, 1975, the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese, who reunited the country under Communist rule as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, ending the Vietnam War.