SE-53 PROBABLE COMMUNIST REACTIONS TO CERTAIN POSSIBLE US COURSES OF ACTION IN

Created: 12/18/1953

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DATE: 5

SPECIAL ESTIMATE

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

The Intelligence Advisory Committee concurred In this estimate on IS. Tltc FBI abstained, the

tyect beinff ontsUle ot Us jurisdiction. Tin] lollovy.nogtinixrtiem of the Intelligence Advisory committee pttrticipated with the Central Intel-ligewes Agency in the preparation oj this estimate: The tntcU'ffmec organ"rations of the Departments of State, the Anna, the Naun. the Air Ftrce. and The Joint Stag.

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

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

THE PROBLEM

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

commitment in Indochina, before the endf US ground, air.forcescale sufficient to defeat decisively the field forces of the 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 tlie

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 the US commitment, there wouldhased withdrawal of French forces from Indochina

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

ESTIMATE

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

' The Problem and the Assumptions have been provided to (he Intelligence communityads for the estimate.

For the purpose! of Uili estimate, open lnterren-Uonefined as the commitment of substantial Chinese Communist eombat forces, under any pulse.

it were designed to defeat the Viet Minh with US forcesr eventually with US-Irained Vietnam forces.

In the Eventending US Commitment

e do not believe that Communist China, upon learningorthcoming commitment by the US, would immediately intervene ojx'n-ly with substantial forces in Indochina. The acceptance by Communist China of anin Korea. Its policies to date with respect to Indochina, and its present emphasis on

OH ET

problems seem toesire at this time to avoid open intervention in the Indochina war or expansion of tlie conflict to Communist China. US warnings againstCommunist intervention in force3wouldtrong deterrent effect. Moreover, the political advantage to be gained by portraying the US as an "aggressor" would probably appear both to Communist China and the USSR to outweigh the militaryof moving large Chinese Communist forces into Indochina before the arrival of US forces.

n addition. Communist leadership would probably estimate lhat they would have time toumber of steps which,erious risk of expanding the war lo China, mightS military commitment orimpair its effectiveness. Such steps might include:

logistic and rear areathe Viet Minh.

committing Chinese troopsas "Viet Minh guerrillas."

intensified Viet Minhand sabotage operations inin and around the Tonkinto inflict such damage on theposition as to increase thethe US operation.

up Chinese Communistsouth China, including Hainan.

by diplomatic andin the UN and elsewhere to forestallLo gain the support ofand to exploit differencesUS anil its allies over preparations for

f.efense pact with the Viet Minh.

Although, in responseS militaryin Indochina, the Communists might threaten to renew hostilities in Korea, we be-Ileve that they would not uclually lake such action as they probably estimate thataggression In Korea would result inthe conflict to Communist China itself.

Actual US Commitment

n the initial stages of un 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 Iitdochlna climate and terrain. They would also realize that the xenophobia of the Indigenous population of Indochina might be effectively exploited to theof US forces by Communist propaganda; the Chinese Communists would thereforethat the US rather than themselves bewith this antlforeign attitude. They might estimate that, with Increased aid from Communist China, the Vict Minh forces, by employing harassing ond infiltrating tactics and avoiding major engagements, could make any US advance at tho least slow and difficult. It Is probable, therefore, lhat the Chinese Communists would initiallyautious military policy while they assessed the scale, nature, and probable success ol Ihe US action, the effect of such action on Vietnamesemorale and military capabilities, tire subsequent military and political moves of the French, the temper of US opinion, theof US allies and the neutralist states, and the position of the UN. Even at this early stage, however, the Chinese Communists would probably take strong actions short of open intervention in an effort to prevent the US from destroying the Viet Minh armed forces.*

Special Assistant, Intelligence, Department of State, believes that tho timing of thereaction to the commitment of US forces in Indochina cnnnul be estimated with anyof assurance. He therefore believesecision by the Communist* U>autious policy In the Initial stages of the US action should be presentedossibility, rather thanrobability.

addition to tho steps outlined in3 above, the Chinese Communists, at this early stage of US commitment, would probably provide an increased number ofadvisors, pOMtblv including commanders (or major Viet Minh units. Moreover, Peiping might covertly furnish limited air support for Viet Minh ground forces, bul would beto undertake air operation.'; which itwould provoke US retaliation against Communist China itself other titan retaliation against those airfields from which such air attacks were launched.

If the leaders of Communist China and the USSK came lo believerolraoledin Indochina was likely, they would probably not openly commit Chlnc.scground, naval, or air forces to anin force In Indochina, nor would they renew hostilities in Korea or commit new acts of aimed aggression elsewhere in the Far East. Peiping and Moscow would probably believeong and indecisive war In Indochina could be exploited politically and that, in time, US and Vietnamese will to fight might be worn down.

If at any time, however, the leaders ofChina and Ihe USSH 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 i'uvor of openin force:

defeat of the Viet Minhwouldrave blow tothroughout the world and woulddiminish prospects for the expansionin Asia

US military commitment Inform partarger plan, possiblyin the minds of the Communists,of Chinese Nationalistat the destruction of the Chineseregime, [it any case, decisivethe Viet Minh armed forces would bringto the borders of China.

the initial intention,US military action in Indochina mightthe US to increase pressure onof the 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, mightstrongly against Communistit would fear that suchalienate its NATO allies, result indeployment of US forces, causeto invoke the Sino-Soviet treaty,increase the danger of general war.

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

n the other hand, the followingmight deter the Communists fromlo intervene openly in force:

would be more Important toupon domestic problemsof Communist China's

wouldrave risk of USagainst Communist China andgeneral war.

is remote from the USSRcenters of power in Communistthe establishmenttrongin Indochina would not constitute,same degree as inhreat toCommunist and Soviet power in the

of actual intervention, thecouldositionby reinforcing and rehabilitatingfacilities on Hainan. Thisdominate the Gulf of Tonkin, anddistinct threat to sea-air lines ofof US forces in Indochina and to

RET*

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loss in prestige involved in theof the Viet Minh armed forees couldbe offset by depicting the Viet Minh asliberation movement.Viet Minh Government and itscould be preserved on Chinesethey could exercise constantpolitical pressure on the forces of thethe Associated States.

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

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

lie Director of Central Intelligence and the 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, the chances are better than even that the Chinese Communists would not openly intervene in Indochina, even if they believed that failure to intervene would mean the defeat at that time of the Vict Minh field forces in Indochina. Therefore the Director of Central Intelligence and the Deputy Director for Intelligence, Tlie Joint Staff, believe that in weighing theset forth inhinese Communist leaders. In such circumstances, would estimate that it was more advantageous to them touerrilla action inand tic down large US forces inar, than to risk US retaliatory action against China itself which open intervention wouldHowever, the Communists wouldcertainly continue to support theof the Viet Minh, including re-equipping 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 military intervention.

he Special Assistant, Intelligence,of State, the Director of Navalthe Assistant Chief of, Intelligence, Department of the Army, and the Director of Intelligence, USAF, believe that the condition of "decisive defeat of the field forces of the Viet Minh" prescribed forthis problem would necessarily result inerious setback to Communistsecurity, and expansionism as to lead to the following conclusions. In weighing the arguments presented inndlie Communist leaders in both Peiping and Moscow would probably give greatestto: la) the loss or prestige, the threat to Bloc 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 the decisive defeat of the Viet Minh armed forces would be both certain and far reaching. In appraising the possible nature and scale of direct US action against the 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, lt Is unlikely that the Communists' appraisal would lead them to the conviction that the US reaction to their intervention in Indochina would take the 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 tlie borders of Communisl 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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therefore believe that the chances are prob- Chinese Communists would intervene openly ably better than even that the Communists and in force in an effort to save the Commu-would accept the risk involved and that the nist position in Indochina.

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