Le Duc Tho, the co-founder of the Vietnamese Communist Party who in 1973 negotiated the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, died in Hanoi Saturday. Official accounts said he was 79.
Tho shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, with whom he negotiated the Paris Peace Accords of 1973. But Tho turned it down, saying peace had not yet been achieved.Japan's Kyodo's news agency, reporting from Hanoi, said Tho died of throat cancer. He had been hospitalized since returning in April from treatment in Paris, the report said.
In April 1975, forces from Communist North Vietnam defeated the U.S.-backed South Vietnam government and reunified the country.
Tho, known as a hard-line party organizer and theoretician, was believed to have had a key role in Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia in 1978.
But in 1986, at the Sixth National Party Congress, he and other veterans were replaced on the Politburo by pragmatists seeking economic reform. He became an adviser to the party Central Committee, and Western diplomats said he continued to exercise considerable influence in the party's conservative wing.
His younger brother Mai Chi Tho - who is said to share his hard-line views - is the powerful interior minister in charge of internal security, and is on the Politburo.
Last month, Tho was awarded the state's Gold Star Order for his more than 60 years of political activity.
"I pledge to dedicate my utmost efforts, as I have done since I joined the revolution, to the common cause of the party and the country," he said at the ceremony.
Much of Tho's life was shrouded in secrecy, like many of the revolutionaries of his generation.
Some say he was born to poor parents in a village about 60 miles south of Hanoi. But other Western biographical sources say his father was a civil servant of middle rank in the French colonial administration.
As a teenager, Tho became involved in left-wing labor and political movements and helped organize strikes and riots in the Hanoi area.
He helped found the Indochinese Communist Party in 1930. During his imprisonment by the French, his fellow inmates nicknamed him "Tho the Phonograph" for his ceaseless recitations of Marxist doctrine.
After World War II, he joined the Politburo in the 1950s and launched attacks against "revisionists, defeatists, traitors, pessimists and individualists." But he often called for moderation in healing party rifts.