Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tet Offensive 1968

Today is the Chinese New Year’s Eve. A great event that occurred forty-six years ago tomorrow changed the fate of several nations.

In 1968, the war in Vietnam was at high tide. To Vietnamese, who have been observing Lunar New Year (Tet in Vietnamese) as Chinese, something big happened. When the Communist proposed a New Year cease-fire on Tet holidays, South Vietnam and U.S. gladly agreed without knowing that was a conspiracy to lessen their alertness. On January 31, 1968, nearly 90,000-strong combined forces of North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong guerrillas launched a full-scale attack on all American and South Vietnamese military bases and installations in all South Vietnamese cities. Even the American embassy in Saigon (now Ho Chi-ming City), the capital of South Vietnam, was attacked by communist suicide squad. The sudden attack took U.S. troops and their South Vietnamese allies by surprise and inflicted heavy casualties. However, they still managed to organize counterattack and held the line.

The Tet Offensive saw drastic changes on both belligerents of Vietnam War. To the Communist, the Viet Cong ceased to become a viable combat force because of heavy losses and the North Vietnam gained the psychological advantages and started to take the lead. To the U.S., the horror and severity shocked the public and anti-war sentiment arose highest. President Johnson announced that he would not seek for a second term. The war in this tiny country in Southeast Asia became a major issue in the Election of 1968. Nixon, the Republican president elect, immediately sought ways for peace after he took the White House. In order to push North Vietnam to talk, he sent Henry Kissinger, his national security advisor, to Beijing asking for China’s help to press North Vietnam. In 1973, a peace agreement was signed in Paris and American combat troops began to pull out from South Vietnam. Two years later, North Vietnam's tanks drove into the streets of Saigon ending this half-century long conflict and Vietnam was thus unified.

The follow-up of Kissinger’s visit to Beijing paved the way to “normalization” of Sino-American ties. In late 1978, President Carter severed formal diplomatic relationship with the Republic of China on Taiwan and moved American embassy from Taipei to Beijing.

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