In January 1973, the Nixon administration negotiated a peace agreement with North Vietnamese leaders. Under the conditions of colonization, the United States agreed to withdraw its remaining troops within 60 days in exchange for an immediate ceasefire, the return of American prisoners of war and North Vietnam`s promise to recognize the legitimacy of the South Vietnamese government and submit future disputes to an international commission. At the same time as the Vietnamese plan was put in place, the Nixon administration also stepped up U.S. military activities in other parts of Southeast Asia. In April 1970, for example, the president secretly authorized bombing and ground invasion in Cambodia, a neutral country. The President announced his strategy of Vietnamization to the American people in a televised address on November 3, 1969. He highlighted how his approach was at odds with the “Americanization” of the war that had taken place under his predecessor, President Lyndon B. Johnson. In his final report before leaving office, Mr. Laird said that the Vietnamization process was over: “Following the success of the military aspects of Vietnamization, I believe that the South Vietnamese people are now fully capable of ensuring their own security in the country against the North Vietnamese.” Nixon gradually reduced the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam in several stages, from a peak of 549,000 in 1969 to 69,000 in 1972.
During this period, however, North Vietnamese leaders launched several offensives that tested the president`s resolve and cast doubt on his Vietnamization strategy. However, subsequent events proved that Laird`s confidence was completely unfounded when South Vietnam fell to the communist forces of North Vietnam in 1975. When his expansion of the war was made public, Nixon claimed that the invasion of Cambodia was necessary to stop the pressure on the enemy until the Vietnamese strategy was in place. Nevertheless, the president`s action has been the subject of intense criticism and has sparked massive anti-war protests across America.