PROBABLE COMMUNIST REACTIONS TO CERTAIN POSSIBLE U.S. COURSES OF ACTION IN INDO

Created: 12/18/1953

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special estimate

PROBABLE COMMUNIST REACTIONS TO CERTAIN POSSIBLE US COURSES OF ACTION IN INDOCHINA

W/ CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW RELEASE IN FULL

IS Deccmbe Publishedecembei

DISTRIBUTION

The Intelligence Advisory Committee concurred in Ihis estimate on IS The FBI abstained, the

subject being outside of its jurisdiction. The following member organizations of the Intcll'jenee Advisory Committee participated with the CenlralAgency in the preparation of this estimate: The Intelligence organizations of the Departments of State thc Army, lhe Navy, the Air Force, and The Joint Staff'.

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This copy may be either retained or destroyed by burning in accordance with applicable security regulations, or returned to the Central Intelligence Agency by arrangement with thc Office of Collection and Dissemination,CIA.

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Shis coeunenx has hson approved foxtoxwA. theK" SHKSJt Oi the Centralcj

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CEIITRAL IBTELLIGERCE ACEHCX

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^ wlQtaa to the draft TBC Speotolon tha nana rocrtrlotod baoia.

2. lmltod number of additional ooolon nf

PAUL A. BCREL

Doputy Aaoiciant Dirootor

liatlonal Eatlraateo

PROBABLE COMMUNIST REACTIONS TO CERTAIN POSSIBLE US COURSES OF ACTION IN INDOCHINA4

THE PROBLEM1

To estimate the probable reactions of Communist China and the USSR to:

conunitment in Indochina, before the endf US ground, air,forcescale sufficient to defeat decisively the field forces of thc Viet Minh.

commitment in Indochina, before the endf US ground, air,forcescale sufficient to hold the Viet Minh in check until such timeVietnamese forces could decisively defeat the field forces of the

ASSUMPTIONS'

both a. and b. above:

No Chinese Communist intervention in force in Indochina had taken place.

Commitment of US forces had been publicly requested by the French and Vietnamese governments.

At the time of the US commitment French Union forces still retained essentially their present position in the Tonkin Delta.

Communist China and the USSR would have prior knowledge of the US intent to commit its forces in Indochina.

Following thc US commitment, there wouldhased withdrawal of French forces from Indochina,

The US will warn the Chinesethat if they openlyin the fighting in Indochina, thc US will not limit its military action to Indochina.

ESTIMATE

We believe that thc Communists would assume that the purpose of committing US forces in Indochina was thc decisive defeat of the Vict Mlnh. Consequently, we believe that Communist reactions toSwould be substantially the same whether

'The Problem and lhe Assumptions have been provided to the Intelligence communityasis for the estimate.

Por Uie purposes o( this estimate, openis defined as the commitment of substantial Chinese Communist combat forces, under any eui.se.

it were designed to defeat the Vict Minh with US forcesr eventually with US-traincd Vietnam forces.

In thc Eventending US Commitment

c do not believe that Communist China, upon learningorthcoming commitment by Lhe US. would immediately intervenewith substantial forces in Indochina. Tlie acceptance by Communist China of anin Korea, its policies to dale with rcspccL to Indochina, and its present emphasis on

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problems seem toesire at this time to avoid open intervention in lhe Indochina war or expansion of thc conflict to Communist China. US warnings againstCommunist Intervention in force *wouldtrong deterrent eflect. Morcover. the political advantage to be gained by portraying the US as an "aggressor'1 would probably appear both to Communist China and the USSR to outweigh thc miliiaryof moving large Chinese Communist forces into Indochina before the arrival of US forces.

n addition, Communist leadership would probably estimate that they would have lime toumber of steps which,erious risk of expanding the war to China, mightS military commitment orImpair lis effectiveness. Such steps might include:

logistic and rear areathe Viet Mlnh.

committing Chinese troopsas "Viet Mlnh guerrillas "

Intensified Viet Minhand sabotage operations inin and around lhe Tonkinlo inflict such damage cn theposiuon as to Increase thethe US operation.

up Chinese Communistsouth China, including Hainan.

by diplomatic anilIn thc UN and elsewhere lo forestallto gain the support ofand to exploit differencesUS and its allies over preparations for

"Suchould reinforce thr warning,given by Secretary of Slate Dulles. In his American Lcelon Speech Bt SI hauls. 2

"Communist China has been and now nequipping snd supplying theIn Indochinahe risk Uiat.Korea. Red China might mid lla ownIndochlns The Chmrse CDmmunlitshould re* rite Uiatecondcould not occur without gravewhich might not bt confined InIthe Interestand In Ihe hope of prevenUnemlseakulaUon."

f.efense pact with the Viet Mlnh.

Although, in responseS.militaryin Indochina, the Communists might threaten to renew hostilities ln Korea, wcthat they would not actually take such aciion as they probably estimate lhataggression in Korea would result lnthe conflict lo Communist China itself.

Actual US CommiTmontn thc initial stages of an actual UScommitment, the Communists might not feel compelled to intervene openly In force immediately. They would recognize thewhich the US forces would face inin the Indochina climate and terrain. They would also realise that the xenophobia of the indigenous population ot Indochina might be effectively exploited to theof US forces by Communist propaganda; the Chinese Communists would thereforethat the US rather than themselves bewith this anliforelgn altitude. They might estimate that, with Increased aid from Communist China, thc Vict Mlnh forces, by employing harassing and infiltrating tactics and avoiding major engagements, could make any US advance at lhe Least slow and difficult. It Is probable, therefore, that the Chinese Communists would Initiallyautious military policy while Ihey assessed theature, and probable success of the US action, the effect of such action on Vietnamesemorale and military capabilities, the subsequent military and political moves of the French, thc temper of US opinion, theof US allies and the neutralist states, and the position of. Even at this early stage, however, thc Chinese Communists would piobably take strong actions short of open intervention in an cfTorl to prevent tlie US from destroying the Viet Minh armed forces.'

'The Special Assistant. Intelligence. Department of Stale, bctlces that llw tin Urn Of Useleactton lo the commitment of US forces ln Indochina cannot be csUmated with anyof assuranceIheiefoi* believesecision by the Communists toautious pulley In the Initial stage* of the US action should be presentedossibility, rather thanrobability

in addition to the steps outlined In3 above, thc Chinese Communists, at ;his early stage of US commitment, would >robably provide an increased number of mili* ary advisors, possibly including commanders or major Vict Minh units. Moreover, Peiping night covertly furnish limited air supportct Minh ground forces, but wouldJ>ey to undertake air operations which it esti-nated would provoke US retaliation against Communist China itself other than retaliation igalnst those airfields from which such air itlacks were launched.

f the leaders of Communist China and the USSR came to believerotractedin Indochina was likely, they would probably not openly commit Chineseground, naval, or air forces to anin force in Indochina, nor would they renew hostilities In Korea or commit new acts of armed aggression elsewhere In the Par East. Peiping and Moscow would probably believeong and indecisive war in Indochina could be exploited politically and that, in lime, US and Vietnamese will to fight might be worn down.

If at any time, however, the leaders ofChina and the USSR came to believeecisive defeat of the .Viet Minh armed forces was likely, they would be faced with the decision whether Communist China should intervene openly in force in order to avert this development.

The following considerations might induce the Communists to decide in favor of openin force:

defeat of thc Vict Minhwouldrave blow tothroughout thc world and woulddiminish prospects for the expansionin Asia.

US military commitment inform partarger plan, possiblym the minds ot the Communists,of Chinese Nationalistat the destruction of the Chineseregime. In any case, decisivethe Vict Minh armed forces would bringlo the borders of Clilna.

lhc Initial intention,US military action In Indochina mightthe US to Increase pressure onol thc Communist periphery.

observers, particularly in thestates, would consider the US inIn Indochina and would condoneCommunist InterventionoveIndochina from AmericanThese sentiments could beby Communist propaganda.

US. despite Its warnings, mighlstrongly against, Communistit would fear that suchalienate its NATO allies, result indeploymenl of US forces, causeto invoke the Slno-Sovlet treaty,increase thc danger of general war.

intervening openly In force theCommunists might be able to preventboth lhe successfulthe US mission and the disengagementUS forces from Indochina.

n the other hand, the followingmight deter the Communists fromto intervene openly In force:

would be more Important toupon domestic problemsof Communist China's

wouldrave risk of USagainst Communist China andgeneral war.

c Indochina is remote from the USSR and the centers of power in Communist China. Accordingly, lhe establishmenttrong US position in Indochina would not consituitc. to the same degree as Inhreat toCommunist and Soviet power in the Par East.

d Short of aclual intervention, the Chinese Communists couldosition of strength by reinforcing and rehabilitating the military facilities on Hainan. This position would dominate the Oult of Tonkin, andistinct threat to sea-air lines otof US forces in Indochina and lo rear bases.

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loss In prestige Involved in thcof the Viet Minn armed forces couldbe offset by depicting the Viet Minh asliberation movement.Vict Minli Government and itscould be preserved on Chinesethey could exercise constantpolitical pressure on the forces of lhethe Associated Slates.

military and political nature ofwar is such that even If thethe Viet Minh field forces,could probably be continuedand preclude the establishment ofcontrol over that area.

such circumstances, the USloilitary commitmentfor years to come. Heavy USIn Indochina over the longcause concern to US allies anddivergences between the US andstates,

he Director of Central Intelligence and lhe Deputy Director for Intelligence, The Joint Staff, believe that the Communist reaction to commitment of US forces in Indochina would largely depend upon US posture prior to. and at the same time of, such commitment. If the US posture made manifest to the Communists that US naval and air retaliatory power would be fully applied to Communist China, then Peiping and Moscow would seek to avoid courses of action which would bring about such retaliation. In such circumstances, thehances are better than even Uiat the Chinese': Communists would not openly intervene inIndochina, even if they believed that failure to Intervene would mean the defeat at that timethe Viet Minh field forces in Indochina. Therefore the Director of Central Intelligence and the Deputy Director for Intelligence, Thc Joint SUIT, believe that in weighing theset forth inhinese Communist leaders, in such circumstances, would estimate that it was more advantageous to them touerrilla action inand lie down large US forces inar, than to risk US retaliatory action against China itself which open intervention would However, the Communists wouldcertainly continue to support the rem-

nants of the Viet Minh, including re-cqulpping these remnant forces on the Chinese side of the border and possibly augmenting them with Chinese "volunteers" so that Viet Minh resistance could be continued indefinitely. Moreover, they would pursue their objectives in the rest of Southeast Asia by all means short of open militaiy intervention.

II. The Special Assistant, Intelligence,of State, the Director of Navallhe Assistant Chief of. Intelligence, Department ot the Army, and the Director of Intelligence, USAF, believe that the condition ot" "decisive defeat of the field forces of the Viet Minh" prescribed forthis problem would necessarily result inerious setback to Communistsecurily. and expansionism as to lead lo thc following conclusions. In weighing the arguments presented inndhc Communist leaders in both Peiping and Moscow would probably give greatestto: (a) the loss of prestige, the threat to liloc security, and the setback to Communist expansionism in Southeast Asia involvedecisive defeat of the Viet Minh armed forces and, (b) the risk of direct US action against Communist China. To the Communists, the consequences Of Uie decisive defeat of thc Vict Minh armed forces would be both certain and far reaching. In appraising thc possible nature and scale of direct US action against thc China mainland, the Communists would weigh any USof probable consequences of intervention, the temper of US and free world opinion, and the probable US desire not toocal action. It is unlikely that Uie Communists' appraisal would lead them to the conviction Uiat Uie US reaction to their intervention in Indochina would take thc form of extensive and intense warfare against Communist China. In any case, their overridingof the ultimate motive of US forces in strength on or near the borders of Communist China would strongly influence their courses of action. Thus, the thought foremost In their minds would most probably be thatto dislodge US military forces from the Chinese border would lead to increasingto Communist power elsewhere. We

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