Created: 3/1/1979

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The Sino-Vietnamese Border Dispute

9 was used In preptrlna this report

The Sino-Vietnamese Border Dispute^"" |


The Chinese invasion of northern Vietnam halt tended to obscure the fact lhat the Si no- Vietnamese border conflict has had itsown dynamics andignificant issue between the two countries well bclbrc the Vict no mesc-Kimpuchcin problem exploded into open conflict. The disagreement over small sections of the border (as well as over ownership of the Pnracel and Spratly Islands) was kept in private channels following ihc end of the Indochina war. But private talks broke down in7 and itan of the bigger political dispute. ^

the damage to notional Physical confrontations

Emotional reactions to development* on both sides displaced cool calculations of interestsack of restraint.

at the border decisively escalated these imprudent 1

reactions. ^

military lop-'

Small.lashes (Mainly fisifights)Si no-Vietnamese border becameesult of twoin'

over mistreated Chinese trying to escape from Vietnam to China. Thus ihc earliest border fi rcfight8 occurredesult of refugees trying lo cross illegally into China, , ;


over Vietnam's newly built oordcr defense line. The second and third border fircfights8 occurred when ihe Chinese destroyed the fences, slakes, and minefields of this line.

The Chinese were angered by.Hanoi's impudence in changing the status quo on the border, and believed irat acquiescence in the change would serve to rewird Hanoi nnd lead to even more border transgressions,|1


In particular. Vietnam's action in buildine thenc (slated by Hanoi to be protection from infiltratingigjjfl Chinese agents and border guards) changed thef political dispute. Hanoi by this act had gone beyonderbal exchanges tc unilateral demarcation* in almostevery sectionorder that previously had been reiki tvely open and loosely demarcated. The Chinese felt that the demarcation gaveerritorial advantage, and. in any case, was carried out without Chinese concurrence. For their part, the[ were angered by China's destruction of their newly 'built fences, which, they contended, were "inl esche stage in this way was set for armed Chinese to confront armed Vietnamese.^

Beijing, the bigger and stronger side, escalated the confrontation by instructing its border guards in laic December to begin forward patrolling and to "open fire" on Vietnamese border posu andecond escalation followed when in mid-January Beijing began sending small teams of regular People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops instead of border guards to probe and rcconnoitcr; the number of men and the extent of the intrusions into Viclnamcsc-claimcd territory were also increased. At the same time, the Chinese made known to the Vietnamese ihc nature and extent of their buildup north of the border

Although confronted with attacks bv regular PLA iriMpsat the border and aware of the Chinese buildup nearby, the Vietnamese refused to desist. They held their positions nnd even fought back. By mid-January, the Chinese upnarcntly believed that their policy of warning and intimidation had failed

Therea "occupied" by the Vietnamese ai that lime was notoboulquare kilometers. But the presumption by Hanoi that it could with impunity marklaim to any amount of Chineseas intolerable to ihe Chinese. And. although only somethinghinese were killed or wounded, it was the Vietnamese Altitude of open defiance that made any casualties intolerable.! |

Beijing's conclusion was that the [inchecked milium-tic hubris of the Vietnamese lenders would continue toundamental sehse, China's invasion was an effort to shatterelf-

image of invincibility.!

i hi

Kampucheaey catalytic factor in Chinese thinking. The Sino-Vietnamesc border disputeagainst the backdrop of Vietnam's occupation of Kampuchea and Beijing's inability lo protect its client regime there. In short, twoac lion against Kampuchea and Hanoi's refusal toess provocative posture along the Sino-Vietnameseto have been mutually reinforcing,', impelling Beijing to try to "punish" Vietnam miliiarilj by invading the north.

Beijing has indicated that Chinese forces eventually will be withdrawn Onlyorder that China (rather

order thatthan Vietnam) recognizes. If ihisj indeed proves to the final Chinese decision, and, if Hanoi refuses toorder fegrecmcht,;thg prospect is for a, long period of border tehsion|ana conflict









4 :y'






Efforti To Prevent Escalation of the Dispute

Effort To Intimidate Hanoi: Ovcrfhghis


"j Papule bver'Rcfugees Escalatesispute Over


V. I

! VI.'




Hanoi Prepares for "War

Vietnam's New Border Defense Line Escalates Tensions


Beijing Escalates WarningsOverShooting DeathsPunishment" Begins

Policy of Intimidation Fails


i t'-ii

The Sino-Viclnomcse Border

mililary action against Vietnam has tended to obscure the Tact thai the Sinc-Victnamcsd border conflict has had its own dynamic* andigmljc

nuniin IHi. dynamilateral issue between (he two countries well before the Vietnamese-Kamouchean problem exploded into open conflict. Their competing claim* to the offshore jParaccI and Sprnily Islands hasarticularly contentious1 issue, especially since China'slsciAire of the Puraccls from South Vietnamhe land border seems to have been less sensitive politically, but it nonetheless has been the scene of minorfor more thanears, even during the wartime alliance By itself, the territorial disputeontributedeneral cooling of relations between (he two countries, and with the general deterioration of relations over other issues, iteady focus for the critical confrontation that has developed '

I - "'j

The gro'-'ng intensity of the border dispute course be seen against the backdrop of stea' deteriorating relations between China and Vi since theend of the Indochinajwarompetition for influence in Souihcasi Asia guaranteed that problems submerged during would surface lo cause Increasing strains inl; jE :'

as ended, ichfedincrea* pportofthe fiscd by Vieti

Rational and cool behavior prevailed for some| lime despite China's'growing annoyance with Vietnam's till toward the USSR, and Hanoi'* vexation with China's obvious desire to blunt the growth ofVieiM" influence in theexplicit in

patronage of Kampuchea, prickly neighbor. All restt the Kampuchean conflict, namcsc anger oyer China' regime. And! China w

regime. Ana,

treatment of iii Chinese residents-double victims of prejudicerackdown oil residualand more significantly byirm

Ii isemonstrable proposition that neither Beijing nor Hanoi desired lo sec the longstanding border ispute escalate toil* present level. The Chinese worry nboul Ihe Soviets while righting with ihe Vietnamese; the Vietnamese fight the Chinese while righting the Kampuchcans. China is confronted with the prospectwo-front war; Hanoi already hasar. Bui the nationalistic emotions of both sides wereloo highly charged to permit avoidance of the undesirable border dispute. I

I. Political Efforts To Prevent Escalation of the Dispute

is. ru"ij i -

agreed in Beijing in5 lo begin private discussionspecial commissw^.

Until recently neither China nor Vietnam has hadreason ioorder war, Both sides had agreed0 keep differences over territorial claim* along (he border on (he shelf, and the border remained undemarcated at many sections between widely spacedoundary pillars. Even after frictions increased over erritorial issues following Communisi victories in Indochinahe mailer was kept in private channels. Party Firstuan reportedlyS u- hcirin detailed

inpcciaising ispecial envoys rather; than Vietnamese Embassy peryj sonncl in Beijing. Substantive talks are conducted byChina and Ihe USSR onlypecial envoy rrom-l* Moscow comes to Beijing,imilar practice was ft

MOSCOW euiirca - .

intended for Sino-Vielnamesc negoliaiions. |_

j I1" .

But the "special commission" apparently ivever met-;

' Both sides tried againnd Deputy Foreignhuulingbctwecnand Beijing

. i


i 1

high-level contact*the border dispute active. Thill the Chinese may have been prepared to be rcP'onab'lc is suggested by the statementhinese official ni the time that China,[unlike Us border-la Iks' prnciic" with the USSR and India, had made concessions ii. 'smaller" countries'implying lhat Vietnam would fall in the latterhc*c| jontacts at the Deputy Foreign Minister level ceased, however, in

io was left unresol


nd the bbrdc

The intensificiition of the maritimehat further hardened.the positions ofench side on till territorial nutters. The Chinese position was that I'liani Van Dong had conceded inhat the

, I'araoel Islands (seized by Ihe Chinesend the Spratly Islands (seized by 'hi Vietnamese) belong to China, but Hanoi kept raising the issuehich Beijing preferred to leave on theore

: recent maritime dispute has t'cvtlopcd over Hanoi'* claim to "two-thirds" of the Gulf of Tonkin, according

; to the Chiocsc. Hanoi seem* to be claiming thai Nightingaleis about at the midpoint between thb Vietnamese mainland and China's Hainan Island In Ihcthe point from which Vietnam drawsmilc territorial limit. Beijing rejects this claim, and Chinese aircraft fly over ureas considered by the Vietnamese to be Vietnam's territo*

Despite these frictionsand China'*annoyance with Vietnam's till toward the USSR, on open polemic and aciual shooting were avoided by both sides.elatively recent developments sharpened Sino-Vlct namcsc hostility sufficiently to impel the two govern mcnls lo dispute Openly and to turn to military combat.

II. The Ofepui* Om Refugee* Excilale*ispute (her Territory

i :

The earliest bordCr fircfight8 occurredirect result of panicky and mistreated Chinese tryi to escape from Vietnam to China. When groups of refugees tried (across tho border, (hey wereietnamese securityhe Vietnamese were upon by Chinese border guards onebruarynear Dong Vnn,|Ha;Tuyennd on I5

February (near Mong Cai.Quang Ninh0 Vietnamese were killedj


] fleeing Chinese crossing over inloSoulhLnlna

began to arrive in large and unmanageable numbers after Hanoi's "socialization" decree inK und onuly. China's policy abruptly changed to that of refusing to take any more refugees. Beijing concealed this virtual no-entry policy by demanding iha( all refugees must hove document* issued by (he Chinese Embassy in Hanoi nnd Vietnamese exit visas, Moreover. China wanted the documents to specify thai the refugees had been "persecuted" in Vietnam. This blocking policy created hostile confrontation! at rct'u-geet the three Beijing-designated crossing points on the Vietnamese side ofthe border.

The Vietnamese were less restrained than the Chinese. They forced the refugees to crow into China despite the danger of armed clashes, and Inter ullackcd Chinese officials. China's policy at the time seems to have been to confront Vietnamese armed personnel at the crossing points wiih unarmed and ununiformed Chinese, keeping their armed border guards back from these points. Vietnamese vcrsionsof minor clashesugust ai two separate crossing points indicate that armed Vietnamese border guards were used against Chinese civilian officials.'

Beijing's versionore serious incident onugust, although self-serving,redible case (hat armed Vietnamese soldiers were confronted by unarmed Chinese border officials. The incidentat the Youyi (Friendship) Pass at the border between Lang Son. Lang Son Province, and Pingxiang, Guangxi Province (Ping-hsiang. Kwangsi).soldier* and security personnel stormedide refugee camps, beat and slabbed ihcChinese, and forced morecro's the border, After the refugees were expelled.soldier* beat up nine "unarmed border defense workers" on China's side of the poic, bul "in strict ndherence to instructions front.upper echelons, the Chinese side's personnel did not strike buck and onlyerious verbalanoi'* version refer* to Chinese armymen "in civilian clothing" andthat the Vietnamese involved were "sddicrs."


the Chinese In August apparently used unarmed personnel at the Youyi Pass checkpoint and probably at the other two designated checkpoints, elsewhere along the border they continued toith armed border guards. There were con frontal ions between border guards of both1 sides, Includingrclsand fisifights"ovcr territory'

this had been the pattern for more than a

year. But these were no-shooting events. There were no deaths by gunfire in August. The only shooting'n September was ihe killinghinese boat's crewietnamese fisherman in disputed coastal waters. Exchange of fire did not occur at the border un'il Ocicto.nj'j $

Theugust incident ot the Youyl Pats was alsomportant as one source of territorial disputes that were to develop. After the Incident Vietnamese troops set up barbed wire around the border checkpoint and built machinegun emplacements nearby. Moreoldiers were then sent to take up positions on earby Punien (Ponien) Hill, which the Chinese claim is iheir territory, This hi.lto become part of the overall territorial dispute. The refugee issue gradually was displaced by the territorial issue.hen Beijing withdrew its negotiating team from Hanoi, suspending talks on the refugee issue, several points on the border already had become disputed land, and both sides complained about "encroachments."

III. China's Effort To Utlnldaie Hanoi: OerfUgafi

I ' '.V i n response to the mass exodus of Overseas Chinese, the Chinese tried early on to Intimidate the Vietnam esc leaders and force them to desist from furtheristreatment of their ethnic Chinese by conducting provocative overflights of Vietnam's territory In the north and. occasionally, over Vietnamese-claimed waters in the Gulf of Tonkin near Vietnamese coastal cities.-At the same lime, the Chinese made defensive preparations along the border.|

- ri in May and continuing through thefallhinese fighter aircraftVietnamese airspace. Al-

top Vietnamese official" complained to foreign newsmen onay lhat Chinese ovirllighis were due toeliberateanoi made no official protest in the hope lhat Beijing would desist. But the deep penetration of Vietnam's airspaceJuly by three Chinese fighters crossing oyer ihe border

into Vietnam, impelled Hanoi onuc lis first official protest regardinghinese official refused lo accept this protest note.und onuly four Chinese fighters penetrated northernairspace)


Hanoi's policy generally was lo keep its own aircraft well back from the border and io avoid reacting in the air to the overflights. It was nol untileptember, when two Chinese fighters flew close lo the border along northern Cao Bang and Ung Son Provinces that> the Vietnamese, apparently for the first time,wjiha^cfcnsjvejeac^


, tcinanT

possessed more advanced fighters and pTobaBly beiicrut it was concerned about the superior numbers possessed by China's Air Force and wanted to limit the dispute lo ground activity, especially io borderctivity. Escalation to the air or sea would have made the confrontation with China unaccepubly large. Although Premier Pham Van Dong in his National Day speecheptember complained aboutof Vietnam's airspace and territorial waters by the Chinese, he stressed tha' the Chincsc'werc taking action along "many borderhere China can. at any time, commit acts of hostility nnd sabotage againstrior to the9 Chinese invasion, there had been no air or naval engagements, all hough the Chinese clearly wereto risk escalation to air combat as early as May

ma;! n- i i:



Fcur of infiltration and sabotage by Chinese agents.border guards became Hanoi'fi immediate jednj.and this fear resulted in the decision to fencestrips of the border. The Vietnameseig buildup of Chinese troops'in southern Chinaand that theythe contingency of largr.-scalc thinescTung, party Central Committee member andeditor of tihan Dan,

eptember :j

Recently, and as never before. China has concentrated Us troops In the ^southern areas.have obtained', information thai they are buildih up iheir positions.Nobody can be sure thai China w, II hot launchattack on Vietnam, while making all-out effortsrevent war, we are making full preparations |ij

The'Vietnamese clearly had an cx iggeratcd viewhina's small improvements in border security. Il in theirry to gain the ympathyofot countries by expressinghclcss. they seem to haveorst-case rati and prepared for thearge-scale Chinese attack. They refusedc out the pros of warj

its and armed forces.


rtyCentral Committee oocu'-fThe main

pointsj r i

China is the imm diatC and main enemy'of Victham

Vietnam will defeat China becausci Vietnam has150

million people, ski! ful Communist party leadership, j

and the support of other socialist countries.

with China ar: no and arc intended merely to


two key sloga protect Ihc fatherland" and to supportnt line."

They began to pic Between late August and early September, political personnel lectured the populace in south Vietnam" using materialemf-

|in; late August noted extensive evidencepgraded Vietnamese military preparation!

The Chinese. bJ ing (he stronger and biggerwere more retailed about thehan the'Vietnamese.-The Vietnamese seemcalculated that liiclr prospectivemight provokc'ihe Chinese to engagelarge-scale attacks. But rather than buckihey decided to hang (oogh and prepare forJjjj (

croachmcnls" into China extend lo distances varyingbetween "dozens and hundreds ofnd c> enmuch as "severals credible. | f

-j :

Vietnamese "arrogance" was also indicated by the unilateral buildingam upstream on the Song Chay River (north of Laoausingercent of the water i? flow on the Vietnamese side of three midchanncl islands,e Chineide loo shallow for navigation. I

Vldnnm's New Border Defease Line Escalates Tensioas

* . *

The Vietnamese ai early as Jufy had been sufficiently alarmed by Bcijings's actions to begin to fencd'off (with bamboo and metal stakes, barbed wire, and minefields) almost every section of the Sinc-Vieimm-csc border, with the except ton of those sections obstructed by cliffs and rivers. Entire villages along iheilometers of border were as-sigaed the task of making thousands ofillboxes and trenches were also built and ammunition was moved in. Patrolling of the border by PA VN soldiers as well as by regular border guards, police, and armed militia was increased. Hanoi's fear Of agent and boider guard infiltrators led it to create many "clearedof the border including nearbylhat were cleared of all Chinese civilians and then fortified. By October, Vietnam hadorder defense line which, despite lis ramshackle nature, viewed by the Chinese'

This line was significantly to change the nalun expand the scope of the border; dispute. Most impOri iant, it created arguments over ownership of territory at many points along the border where such arguments had not previously existed. Previously, the border been loosely defined by stone markers plat ountains

f mountains and in valleys and low-along the border. The border theoretically ihe straight line between these markers, many of them placed as far asilometers apart. There had been no definition of the border on thejground between these, markers, and Vietnam's buildingorder defense, line led to arbitrary placement of fences, stakes, and minefields, almost certainly to Vietnam's lerr' bcncfii. Beijing's complaint that Vietnamese


! in

For their pari, the Vietnamese apparently had some valid causes for complaint. As early ashey were briefing their cadres about the Chinese policy of moving border pillars southward into Vietnamese territory at various border points. The Chinese also carriedolicy of using border guard patrolsscortfarmers into Victnamcsc-cluimcd territory.


; JTt^aMaret^

The most important areas of alleged Vietnamese encroachment were lh ihe northeast, mar the Youyi Pass north of Lang Son, and in Ihe northwest, north of Lao Cai.tripof territoryeters beyond the location of the Chinese border at the northeast railway junction at the Youyi Pass, which had been maintained5 by Chinese crews with Vietnamese agreement, hadoint ofharassment, forcing the Chinese to close ihe junction to further traffic on


ar. and (Key continued (he practice of maintaining local contacts between border postAlthough us early asuly thebegan small-scale trenching In the sensitive Youyi Pass area and had greatly expanded their trenching to almost every hill near the southern entrance of the pass byeptember, the Chinese engaged in no similar activity on their side. Confronted with extensive new claims, however. Beijing changed its policy of restraint at'he bordcr.r

visitorctober that China has"givcn up" on Vietnam, but hopes to avoid armed conf ;t; if the Vietnamese start the fight, they "will get into trouble "z-

Li's and Deng's pessimistic assessments suggest that although the big buildupof Chinese forces was no: to begin until late December, the Chinese leaders already were actively considering severely "punishing" Hanoi.

total area "occupied" by the Vietnamese wasjnot large But the presumption by Hanoi that it could with impunity marklaim to any amount of Chinese territory was intolerable. Similarly, the number of Chinese killed by the Vietnamese was small. But iljwas the Vietnamese attitude of open defiance which made any killings intolerable,]-

Beijing's conclusion was that the uncheckedhubris of the Vietnamese leaders would continue toangerou*hina's invasion on9 was an effort to shatter Hanoi's image or invincibility, as was stated publiclyiaoping (Tcnghe Chinese made the decision only after trying to deter Hanoi by less extreme measures.]- I. h

i ms-|iftl

VI. Farther Escalation:

China Begins To Tearhe Fences

' I I- ! i ' | decision of the Chinese forcibly toright unilaterally to demarcate thewas taken in late September, by which limehad accumulated definitive evidence of "en- j| by examining maps made inborder guard teams. Deputy Premier Lion 1

'uctoDer trial the dispute had gone beyond possible'conciliation and that the situation would not beven if China were "to cede" its two border provinces lo Vietnam. China, he said, was now preparing foria nasty and protracted ordeal. Deng Xiaoping told a

j peaking to american newsmen in be(peg9 deng uaicdihat in ibe course of leaching vietnamleww,be claim thai ii It ihemiliury rtrmrr ml Ihe " ihatlerod "

i tu-aihiAxton foil. It February I

']' ';:

By early October. Beijing hudolicy of sending armed border guards and militia to destroy ihe fences and minefields. While most incidents wereonfined lo punching, clubbing, stoning, andngagement, the stage was set for armed Chinese to confront and challenge armed Vietnamese in small-scale shooting incidents. In September the Chinese used border guards and police at the border to warn the Vietnamese lhal "this is Chinesectober, the border guards were "destroying fences and pulling upt wasmall step from such actions lo the shooting by Chinese border guards of two Vietnamese border guards and the abductingietnamese cadre onctober al Pha Long Village, Mong Khuong District. Hong Lienrovince; This was the first instance sincef the killing by gunfire of Vietnamese border guards


i Hanoi's sense of outrage over (his shootingas reflected in the oulpouring of commentary in its media. The toughening of Beijing's border policy was staled with greatest detail in the PAVN newspaper:

|,! . Jit" |ijV- Iif

The Chineseave gone from using only sticks, stones, and machetes to provokeietnamese public security border defense ouiposts and bully our militiamen and border guards onnside Vietnamese territory1 to sending their armed henchmen lo sel up ambushes and barbarously kill our cadres, combatants, and people in the border area.

i 'i i -The Chinese waited two weeks before responding to

Vicinam's official protest. Onctober they for-



Ily complained that Vietnamese actions, such as

and other fortifications and stoning and

i- i:!

injuring Chinese personnel, was continuing, bul on the matter of shooting, stated only thai ihc Vietnamese, on occasion, had Tired their guns "into ihe air" and "in an intimidatinghere was no reference to thectober killings and abduction. This omission and the delay inesponse suggest that the yiclnamcse complaint was accurate. Beijing hoped to retain its pose of restraint by avoiding media comment on the incident, letting its response be the "vague statements" made by its charge in Hanoi and the commander of Ihcil Chinese border post when confronted with the Vietnamese complaint^


The Chinese had not ehnngedhooting policy. thectober killings were not repeated anywhere else along the border despite border guard destruction of the Vietnamese fences. Indeed, the incidents ofugust in which Hanoi claimed that two Vietnamese security personnel were killed, but not by gunfire, andeptember in which Hanoi claimed thai one fisherman was killed by gunfire, wereenecsong border. Many more shooting incidents,arger scale and of greater duration, would have occurred if either of ihc two sides. issued shooting orders to iheif border guardsrmed militiamen. When the next incident took place, il was apparent that Chinese personnel did not have orders to shoot even after they had been fired upon.

Chincsr versions of (he killing if six Chinese commune members and armed militiamen by Vietnamese armed personnel in ihe Dinghaoshan area of Jingxi County, Guangxi Province (Tinghaoshan. Ching-hii. Kwangsi)

ovember are more detailed than Vietnamese versions. Beijing conceded that Chinese commune members and militia had been "removing road barri-cades and bamboo stakes set up illegally by. and leveling trenches dug also illegally by. theide on Chinese territory" before an argument place. Tbe Vietnamese "armedrmed militiamen, retreated to take up po four outposis and, on the signal from ihe'

'n arrjied"Vietnamesepublic*pened fire on the Chineseubmachineguns, and rifles. Twelve Chinese wounded and eight others were abducted. The militiamen showed "restraint and neveringle shot inhinese border guard personnel

! ! rotested to Vietnamese border guards, who agreedeetingovember, bul at the appointed time the Vietnamese suddenly called off the meeting, and the matter was referred to higher echelons.ovember, the Vietnamese Foreign Ministrythe Chinese Embassy in Hanoi that six of the abducted Chinese had died "on Vietnamese

Withinours afterovember incident. Vietnamese authorities had taken all residentlo the site and pointed out that the six Chinese corpses were onlyetersietnam-sceters from the Chinese sidehc border, and that ihcy had Chinese rifles. Hanoi's version stressed that "an AFP correspondent based in Vietnam, after visiting ihe scene,eport confirming that ihc area of the clash lies deep in Vietnamesemeters south ofctually, ihc six Chinese were in civilian clothes and two had been shot in ihe back: they probably were militiamen. They may have been captured and then murdered, although Hanoi's version claims lhat they had "rushed forward" intoterritory, shooting as they advanced. j


VII. Beijing Escalates

t>er Shooting Deaths j ;

Beijing's sense of outrage over what it believed io have been murder in cold blood resulted in China's first serious warning to Hanoi. The Chinese Foreign Ministry noteovember stated that China's "restraint and forbcaranee" had been the onlyto serious border incidents, and for Ihe first lime Beijing used the term "warns" to convey its message:

HI .

full responsibility for all the

arising therefrom.



'!: :'i he Chinese Government tarns the Vietnamese authorities in all seriousness that they should not regard Chinese restraint and forbearance asnd submlsslveness. Should the Vietnameseies willfully cling to their course and continue to intensify the anthChlnese provocations and armed intrusions at theSino- Vietnamese border areas, they

Vietnam's policy! however, continued to be to bulla more fences and establish more minefields, andpolicy continued to be to destroy them. But in November there were no other killings of militiamen or border guards on either side

In December, however.deaths rcsullcd from Vietnamese gunfire. The Chinese [issued two warnings which were carefully calibrated, the second being slightly stronger than the first, and both stronger than thatovcmbcj.| : jjjj

The warning ofecember was contained in i'i Chinese Foreign Ministry note of that date which complained thai on s) Dcccmberan "armedshipV firedhinese fishing vessel andne and seriously wounded twtj fishermen in Chinese coastal waters off Dongs mg. Gua gsi Province (Tung-

II; j

The Vietnamese Government sho Id understand that thereimit to Chinas forbearance and rest toward its armed provocations against China -encroachments upOn Chinese territory. If the nameie authorities should persist In their co continue to encroach upon Chineseovereignty, make armed provocations and am against China, and

}latcd since t

must be held responsible for thee onseauencei therefrom, 'emphasisj

The' Vietnamese^

this was China's strongest protest since the tion ofSlno-Vietnamcse relations It was given at

lion ol Sino- Vietnamese relation^ uauthority by Li Xiannian's publicizedformer Thai Foreign Minister Chatichai onday; "China's forbearance has its limit andauthorities are deluding themselvesthat wc arc weak and can be bullied."]

The warning ofecember was contained inn Beijing People's Dally editorial which summarized Sino-Victnamcte territorial disputes in recent years and complained that Vietnam's "bullying of China haa reached an intolerable'

I 1 ii

The Viefnamesc authorities heve tone far enough in pursuing their anti-China course. Thertimit lo the Chineseorbearance and restraint. China has never bulltvd and will never bully any other country; neither will It allow Itself lo be bullied by others. Il will not attack unless it is attacked. But ifJ allocked. It will certainly counterattack. China means what it says.'.

j 'S1 J I

We wish to warn the Vietnamese authorities lhathey, emboldened by Moscow's support, iry to seek a

after gaining an inch and continue to act in thisnbridled fashion, ihey will decidedly mcelwiih the

punishment they desene. We stale this here and now. Dor't cvmpUin later thai we've not givenarning in advance, /emphasis supplied!

was Beijing's first public use of the idea of'although ihe editorial and allqucnt Chinese public and private statementsambiguous on the matters of the form and scoperetaliation. The warning was triggerede

iy'"-v. w

_il for Vietnamese initiatives. ^

In order toieir more vigorous mililary policy, the Chinese tried to convince internationalhat the Vietnamese were the instigators of trouble in the urea. The warningn the day ihe Vietnamese began their invasion ofthat there was an "organic connection" between the Sino-Vietnamese dispute andietnam's aggression against Kampuchea, that innstances Vietnam wjis the provocative

killing of nine Chinese militiamen and civilians by "armed Vietnamese personnel"ircfight at Xilu. iGuangxi Province (Hsilu. Kwangsi) onn its note regarding that fircfight. Beijing for the first lime in the course of the border dispute staled lhat "Chinese militiamen were compelled to return fire in sclf-dcfcnscand killed three armed Vietnameseon thehe implication wj* that inncidents China's policy had changed from restraint to retaliation. In fact. China's policy went beyond th.s: new orders apparently were issued io Chinese forces at the border nol to wail

VIII. aunt's "Punishment" Bruins

Beijing'secember warning aboui prospective "punishment" marked the beginning of the new border policy. The evidence suggests that betweenndecember,esult of tbe killing of Chinese and signs ol an imminent invasion ofecisionmade lo permit Chinese personnel to;

Open fire, not only in retaliation, but on sight of Vietnamese rwrsonnd. -j

Initiate aggressive, forward! patrolling'uJ loteyond Vietnamese border defense posts.

Chineseescalated tb Includeand mortaralso to bethese defense posts, many of which. .casualties amonB border guards in the period betweenecember andanuary at four killed, four wounded; Hanoi's figure for border guards killed between Wandanuary was seven. Thus, up to mid-January, the skirmishes were stillmall scale and apparently regular PLA troops were still not being


By the end of the month, however, the Chinesentroduced regular PLA units into the immediate border area. Hanoi's protest note ofanuary complained that "many columns of Chinese armed forces" onanuary hudietnamese border defense post and thatlatoon" of Chinese troops had intruded "deep" into Vietnamese territory. Onanuary. Hanoi announced thatompany" of Chinese troops had intruded into Vietnamese territory at one point, and that Chinese armed forces had penetratedilometer deep" into Vietnameseai another point.



the Chinese were deploying small teams

let posts-g

ebruary. Chinese


jThus the'Chinese in

less than one month's' time had changed the balanceal the border to provide enhancedjrmmaryfor their "punishment",

gainst Vietnamese border guard posts. By

Vietnamese publiclyhe* foreign Ministry noteanuary that in the' finalhmcsciarmed forces hadbegun to "open fire onVictnameSc personnel and .border defense ttosts.

r PLA unit

I'were employed isucd looperaldj areas, at first up to

Chinese border,guards itnd militia were used at the border during the beginning stase of this new, policy.

[By mid-January, however have been movfcJ into the principal burden. Bigger apparently instructions'*

deeply into Vietnamese;

iabout one kilometer, and later several kilometers ibcyond ihe point of earlier operations. Beijing put its

L.i i, ii


na's Polky of.1 ntimidallon Faih

The change from the use of border guards and militia at ihe border to the use of regular PLA troops in deep probes, accepting the prospect yl bigger fircfights. failed to intimidate thelncsclights beginning in8 as well as theofVietnimeseTehccsbcginnlngln not deterred the Vicinancse from claiming small pieces of territory and from killing Chinese personnel. Chinese warnings also had been to no avail. For


example, when cmecembcr.ihc Chinese triedharply worded warning to the Victnamcjst that if Vietnamese provocations on the border coiui tied. China must take s'rong measures "to punish Vietnam, the Vietnh'nWUr note.

The large-scale buildupof ChineseVietnam's northern border which began inVietnam'* invasion of Kampuchea alsoto have little intimidating effect onalong the border. That tile ChineseVietnamese lo learn of their buildup is suggesteda deliberate "leak" of relevant information bynewspaper in Hong KongJanuary. The newspaper quoted on AFP reportbuildup which had attributed!estern"sources, bul the newspaper changed the"military sources inhere is evidencewas aware ofthe sire and nature ofanuary. The Vietnamesenot cease confronting Chinese forces alongThey probably believed thai the actionstaking were not large enough to provoke aretaliatory attack. And there is somethey hoped their treaty with Moscoweweapon"againstsuchJnnattack. Inanyi ,they did not appear to be greatly alarmed,ietnamese Foreign Ministry

ChintW were engaging onlyar of words, P

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The Victnanv iedid not show alarm untilebruary when theyetter io the UN Security Council President appealing to the UN and the world public to lake timely action to stop the Chinese from waging war. By that lime, the Vietnamese probably had available not only their own inlelligence information but also thai provided by the Soviets regardingature ofthe Chinese mililary buildup.P

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Kampucheaey catalytic factor inThe border dispute escalated againstof Vietnam's occupation of Kampucheainability to protect its client regime there.twoactionand Hanoi's refusal io assume aalong the Si no-Vietnamesebeen mutually reinforcing, impelling Beijingto "punish" Vietnam militarily by Invading:

Beijing has indicated that Chinese forces eventually will be wiihdra-vnorder that China (rather than Vietnam)f this indeed proves io be the final Chinese position, and if Hanoi refuses toa border agreement, the prospect isong period of border tension and conflict.!

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