The Asian conference in Geneva (May 8-July 21, 1954), putting an end to the state of war, however, had left the ways of peaceful development undetermined. The final documents spoke of a single state of the Vietnam and of “displacement zones” of the two opposing sides, established that the Vietnamese territory was closed to the installation of foreign military bases, excluded that the military demarcation line represented a political limit or territorial, and indeed set for July 1956 free general elections by secret ballot, under the control of an international commission. However, the mere non-opposition to this compromise, declared by two governments (USA and Vietnam of the South) out of nine represented at the conference, seriously underlined the lack of a real political agreement. In the immediately following period, while the Vietnam of the North, although touched by the developments of de-Stalinization, knew a substantial stability, the Vietnam of the South, on the other hand, went through murky internal complications, characterized by the competition of local groups and by the double influence, French ( exercised through Emperor Bao Dai and, initially, through the military elements) and American (through Catholic groups and the person of the head of government). The political crisis that opened in March 1955 ended with the dismissal of Bao Dai in June and with the centralization of powers by Ngo Dihn Diem (prime minister and minister of defense, with the functions of head of state); but the civil war between the government formations and the Unified Front of the nationalist forces lasted until the proclamation of the Republic of the Vietnam (October 18, 1955). Exponent of Catholic groups, opposed to French influence and tied from the beginning to American politics, Diem progressively accentuated his aversion to any compromise. In May 1956 he declared it impossible not only to carry out an electoral consultation, but also to make preparatory contacts, as long as conditions of full freedom were lacking in the North. Subsequently, he set a series of preconditions for the opening of negotiations with Hanoi on the subject of reunification: authorization for the transfer of people from the North to the South, equalization of military personnel, renunciation of subversive agitation and sabotage.
Already the Laotian crisis of July-October 1959 (when the government of Laos accused the 5th Sept. of having introduced armed units into its territory) highlighted the difficulty of a peaceful settlement and the vigor of the revolutionary thrust. Then the anti-government insurgency in Saigon in November 1960 ended the period of relative stability in Southeast Asia’s international relations. On December 20 of that year the National Liberation Front was founded, which united forces of various origins around a program of popular and national struggle against feudalism and imperialism; the clear prevalence of communist militants was reflected in the very name of Viet-Cong. In this context, the integration of the two Vietnams in the opposing economic-military systems progressed. At a meeting in the Philippines between the foreign ministers of Southern South Korea. and nationalist China was followed by a visit by Vice President Johnson to Saigon and finally the conclusion of two conventions, military and economic, with the USA (June-July 1961). The clashes between the government forces and those of the Viet-Cong, particularly intense in the second half of 1961, led to the conferral of full powers on Diem and the proclamation of a state of emergency. For its part, the 5th Sept. it had entered into economic cooperation agreements with China, with African countries, with Mongolia; in the summer of 1961, the head of government and foreign minister Pham Van Dong paid a long visit to Moscow. particularly intense in the second half of 1961, they led to the conferral of full powers on Diem and the proclamation of a state of emergency. For its part, the 5th Sept. it had entered into economic cooperation agreements with China, with African countries, with Mongolia; in the summer of 1961, the head of government and foreign minister Pham Van Dong paid a long visit to Moscow. particularly intense in the second half of 1961, they led to the conferral of full powers on Diem and the proclamation of a state of emergency. For its part, the 5th Sept. it had entered into economic cooperation agreements with China, with African countries, with Mongolia; in the summer of 1961, the head of government and foreign minister Pham Van Dong paid a long visit to Moscow.
The Kennedy administration, despite the contrary opinion of the intelligence services, engaged in a policy of direct intervention in the country: the number of American military advisors was growing, while new anti-guerrilla techniques were tested (concentration of peasants in strategic villages, use of defoliators). However, the armed struggle, supported by North Vietnamese contingents, became more intense at the end of 1963, to rekindle, after a momentary containment, in the following spring. Its political repercussions were fatal to the power of Diem and his group, which lost US support; the voluntary burning of some monks in Hué precipitated the decline of Diem, overthrown and killed following a military uprising (November 1, 1963). But soon also the Buddhist general Duong Van Minh, who became the head of a revolutionary military council, was flanked and then dismissed (January 30, 1964) by another military man, Nguyen Khanh, who denounced the existence of a neutralist plot fueled by France of de Gaulle. At this point, the American commitment was manifested in open warfare. Attacked the destroyer Maddox in international waters by North Vietnamese units (2 August 1964), bombed in retaliation by American planes on coastal installations in the Gulf of Tonkin, in December Johnson, elected to the presidency, sent the first contingent of troops to Vietnam In the following years the US forces employed in the conflict increased from 25,000 to 500,000 units, in addition to Thai, Filipino, Australian and New Zealand contingents, while massive bombings were carried out, starting from February 1965, on the industrial suburbs of Hanoi and Haiphong, as well as on the supply route with China. In a speech in Baltimore, President Johnson declared his readiness for peace negotiations; in response, Hanoi demanded in four points the withdrawal of the USA and the solution of the problem by the Vietnamese people. The elections for the Constituent Assembly, tenaciously opposed by the Buddhists, registered a foregone government victory; but then the failure of the economic recovery and rural reorganization programs was aggravated by the personal rivalry between Thieu and Cao Ky. To the political shattering and variety of cultural models in Southern Vietnam in the 1960s the continuity of development of the 5th Sept. was reflected, which in 1961 launched its first five-year plan, for the industrialization of the country, and in 1969 it surpassed without shock the succession of Hô Chi Minh.