COMMUNIST CHINA'S REACTIONS TO DEVELOPMENTS IN LAOS

Created: 2/18/1971

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

THIS ESTIKATE IS SUBHITTEO BT THE DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE ANO CONCURRED IN BY THE UNITEO STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD.

The following Intelligence organizations participatedhe preparation of the estimate:

The Central Intelligence Agency and the Intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense, and the NSA.

CONCURRING:

The Deputy Director of Central Intelligence

The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State

The Director, Defense Intelligence Agency

The Director, National Security Agency

ABSTAINING:

The Assistant General Manager, Atonic Energy Ccmrilsslon, and the Assistant to the Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the subject being outside of their Jurisdiction.

1 Excluded frm autcetatlc downgrading and declassification

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CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

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SUBJECT: CvrflflJNIST CHINA'S REACTIONS TO DEVELOPMENTS

IN LAOS

THE ESTIMATE

Chinese Response Thus Par

1. Peking trailed both Hanoi and Moscow In reacting to recent developments In southern Laos. The Chinese did not speculate publicly on the possibility of cross-border operations Into Laosebruary vdien they began to cite press ccynrnentary from Hanoi, which had begun some days earlier. Since then Peking hasumber ofcommentaries as well as several Foreign Ministry statements. At first, these pronouncements dwelt on the same themes: the US 1sthe warndochina; the people of Indochina will certainly surmount the new challenge; and China will continue to provide "powerful backing andore recently, Peking has strengthened Us rhetoric, claiming that the allied move Into Laosa menace to China" and that

It "definitelyrave threat tohe latter statements are an escalation of the rhetoric that followed Cambodia last spring, and suggest that Peking noware serious view of theIn Indochina.

Large rallies have been held In Peking and Shanghai to condemn allied actionsattern that will no doubt be repeated throughout the country. Nevertheless.^all authoritative cwrinent on the situation In Indochina since the beginning of the month has placed Chinese assurances of assistanceerms of rear base support.

Iteasonable to assume that Peking and Hanoi have been consulting on the present situation, but there is no evidenceigh-level conference. Rumors of Importanthou En-la1 and Chief of Staff Huang Yung-shengattending communist strategy sessionsanoiate January and early February appear to be unfounded. ietnamese negotiator, however, has been In Peking recently toupplemental agreement on military and economic aid to North Vietnam.

No unusual military movementseither on the ground or in the airhave been detectedouth Chlna.^

It could, however, presage an expansion of the Chinese roadbulldinghe

recent discovery of heavier anti-aircraft gunsith associated fire control radarIn the area of the roadbuttdlng can not be related to developmentsouthern Laos,

Chinese Options and Probable Courses of Aotion

5. Peking has viewed the warndochinaest of Mao's theory of "people's war" and has consistently advised the communists in Indochina to prepaieong and costly struggle and to persistelf-reliant and protracted warfare. Peking doubtless believes victory In such an effort would enhance its claims for Ideological

roaaouiiairyrm *nnex.

pre-eminence over the Soviet Union and would strengthen China's political Influence In Asia. On the other hand, Peking has had to consider the possibility that an adverse turn In the war could leadecurity threat on China's southern border.

6. While Peking has advocated "people's war" for theas given no Indication of intent to use Chinese troops or to risk an accidental confrontation with the US. The Involvement of Chinese forces In the struggle thus far has been limited to construction and anti-aircraft detachments in northern North Vietnam during the bombing and currently in northwestern Laos. China has built roads from Its own territory into northwestern Laos, and now has00 troops therengineering, anti-aircraft artillery, and security.ctivity can serve several purposes. Roadbullding to the east facilitates North Vietnamese access to northwestern Laos for support of Pathet Lao operations. The extension of the road south and west in the direction of Pak Beng also poses the threatreater communist presence in the Thai border region and this threat might be exploited toater Thai role in Laos. And, ofhe road system provides China Itself with direct access to northwestern Laos.

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Peking would naturally be concerned about theuccessful Interdiction of the Ho Chi Minn trail could have on the capability of the NVA/VC to carry on the struggle in the South. At this early point, Peking's most sanguine estimate is probably that Hanoi can counter the South Vietnamese move and through pressureaos and South Vietnam, can force an early withdrawal. In their worst case estimate of the consequences of operations generally limited to the Tchepone area, the Chinese will have considered the possibility that Hanoi's supply lines could be disrupted so severely that the overall conrnunlst position in South Vietnam would suffer serious deterioration.

In an effort to forestall this latter situation, thereumber of things that Peking might do short of direct involvement of Its own combat forces. It would, of course, seek to persuade Hanoi to persevere In the struggle, andould promise additional materiel support to encourage Hanoi in this course. Peking could also offer to re-introduce logistic personnel Into North Vietnam.

Beyond these measures the Chinese may see small risks and considerable advantageertain stepsccompanied by shrill propaganda closely coordinated with Hanoi's military efforts and threatsthat convey menace but which do not commit them to serious action. The purpose would be to raise the threat of Chinese

Intervention and thus to encourage an abortive end to current Allied operationsouthern Laos and. In any event, to create such apprehension particularly In the US, as to inhibit any future Initiativesimilar nature.

the measures that the Chinese might take to give credence to their threats would be to move troops about in South China or tohow of stepping up construction of the new road to the Mekongroject they probably Intend to move ahead with anyway. They might also send reconnaissance patrols beyond the present area of road construction toward the Thai border. This latter move would have the particular objective of causing Bangkok to pull back from Its involvement In Laos.

Another move open to the Chinese would be to Introduce advisory personnel into combat areas and to let their presence become known. They might feel that the advertised presence of such advisors could raise the spectre of Chinese Intervention as In Korea, withoutact involving much real risk. (Chinese observers have visited COSVN In the past but so far reports of Chinese advisorsombat situations In Cambodia and Laos have not been confirmed.)

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Finally, ifere prepared to go still further Peking could send troops Into the Plain of Jars area or even into southern Laos. But

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this would be unlikely unless US troops or ARVN forces backed by US air power, having destroyed comriunlst forces around Tchepone, should move northward with the apparent Intent of carrying the war Into North Vietnam or northern Laos. In this event the Chinese would feel that their own security Interests were directly threatened.

of these circumstances,adical shiftpolicy seems most unlikely. In northern Laos there 1sno real threat to Chinese or North Vietnamese interests.Vang Pao and US air power inflict heavy blows on thearound the Plain of Jarshe next few months, Laotiannot beosition to threaten vital Chinese or North Thus, we doubt that the Chinese would choose at'this pointthe risks Involved by moving toarger role tn northern Laos.

for southern Laos, there are practical difficultiesan effective Chinese military presence there. would suffer the same relative disadvantages In firemobility as the more readily available North Vietnamese. also have the same logistical problems that confront theconsiderations of this sort, however, He the larger risksof direct involvement with the US.

It is possible, of course, that the South Vietnamese Incursion Into southern Laos would arouseense of desperation In Hanoi as toequest for participation of Chinese combat forces. All the evidence we have, however, extendingood many years,that the North Vietnamese would be exceedingly reluctant to call for such assistance, unless they saw that the security of their own country and regime wererave peril. Shortirect threat of this kind we do not believe that the North Vietnamese would invite the Chinese in.

In sum, China's most likely course of action in response to recent eventsaoso publicly and privately encourage Hanoi to persistts protracted struggle; to raise the level of threatts propaganda; and to Increase Its flow of arms and equipment to allayreluctance Hanoi may have about continuing the conflict. At this stage of the Allied incursion Into Laos, Peking probably sees the US

and its allies still bogged downar that offers no graceful exit. If Hanoi maintains Its will to resist, the Chinese will probably see no need to change their basic approach. And evenorth Vietnam feltto shiftess aggressive posture or toegotiated settlement, Peking would have little leverage to preventove.

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Any effort by Peking to coerce the Hanoi leadership would almost certainly be resisted. It Is more likely that Peking would follow Hanoi's lead.and should ane conference develop, the Chinese would probably Insist on participating.

ANJ.EX

CHINESE COMMUNIST MILITARY FORCES IN LAOS

The Chintao Cotr.nuniat Pregenae

J. The Chinese military presenceorthwestern Laos has expanded slowlyingle engineer regiment8urrent force ofroops. As the roadbulldlng progressed, additional construction and anti-aircraft personnel were broughto maintain and defend the road system.

2. At the end of the last dry seasonhinese strength there was estimatedroops. Since then, these military forces have Increased slowly as Peking undertook new road construction once the rainy season ended. Moreartillery (AAA) troops were deployed along the road system, and an additional engineer regiment was Identified.

esult, the estimated military strength

has been increasedroops.

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bulk of the existing force consists of aunit ofroops organizedegiments. nti-aircraft personnel alsoto defend the construction force. The engineer unit,Laos from North Vietnamas subsequentlyadditional engineer, support, anti-aircraft, and securityapparently functionsask force command authority for the

road construction program and maintains communications with the Kunming Military Region Headquartersubordinate corrtnand.

Logistical support for the roadbuilding program In northwestern Laoshanneled from Kunming through rear serviceunits in Ssu-mao and Meng-tzu. Prior to extendingad construction program Into Laos Inhe Chinese built aof all-weather roads from these two support bases to the Yunnan border area as part of an over-all program, an Indication thats long term in nature.

The Chinese unitsorthwestern Laos haveareful to avoid any ground conflict with Laotian Government forces. North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao units have been used to clear government troops from the area prior to the Initiation of road construction.

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The Chinese anti-aircraft end security forces have been activeheir defensive role, however. AAA units have not hesitated to fire on the occasional Lao aircraft that have attacked the road or on any aircraft that happened to fly over the road.

6. The Chinese AAA Inventory now Includesnti-aircraftm andrrn andewnnand about the same number of smaller caliber automatic weapons. The weapons are deployed along much of the Ch1nese-bu1lt road networkorthwest Laos, with major concentrations at Muong Sal, Huong La, and Huong Houn. The heavier pieces generally protect strategic bridges, large barracks areas, and storage Installations. The smaller pieces are more widely scattered to defend the road construction units. Moreover, the use of improved radar tracking procedures, seen sinceanuary, enables Chinese AAA forces In Laos to function more effectivelyn area defense role. These forces were assumed previously to be functioningoint defense role protecting Individual construction elements.

The Road Construction Program

7. Since the Chinese began the major road construction program in northwestern Laos Inhey have builtiles of two-lane, graveled roads with permanent bridges at large water crossings. The system runs south from the Yunnan border to the village of Muong Sai,

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It splits Into two routes: one turns northeast toward Routend th* North Vietnamese border, and the other leads southwest toward the Mekong River and Thailand.

he road toward North Vietnam was completed at the endridge stilleeded across the Nam Ou River at Huong Khoua, however. Thereo evidence that the Chinese Intend soon to build the large bridge necessary to span this watervay, but on the basis of their past road construction activity. It Is likely that one will be constructed eventually. An engineer regiment recently moved Into the Huong Khoua area.

9. There are signs that Chinese engineersorthern Laos nay be preparing to resume construction of Routeoward the Mekong. Photographyarly January Indicates an Increased buildup Just north of Huong Noun, the present terminus of the road. Construction camps are being enlarged, new AAA sites are being constructed, and some radar-directed AAA weapons are In place. So far this dry season, Chinese roadbullders have concentrated on finishinghich runs northeast from Huong Sa1 to Huong Khoua, and Improving the surface to Routeetween Huong Sa1 and Muong Houn. Both projects are almost completed.

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