Sino-Soviet Border Talks; Problems and Prospects
CI A CCi 1
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CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Directorate of Intelligence9
Sino-Soviet Border Talks: Problems and Prospects
When the Sino-Soviet border talks opened in Peking onctober, the two sides came to the .table with different objectives and points of view.esult, there has been difficulty in agreeing on what to talk about, and the initial three weeks of negotiation apparently have failed tooticeable progress. Nevertheless, by agreeing to talk at all, the two countries have clearlyesire to turn away from1the collision-course on which they were earlier embarked. The motivation of the Chinese is simple: the desire toossible Soviet attack. Mounting Soviet diplomatic and military pressure has' forced Peking to seek an easing of tensions through negotiation. Thefor their part, believe that others have taken advantage of thoir preoccupation with the Chinese problem and want relief from theuncertainty, and political embarrassment that the tense situation on tho border has caused them.
Ironically, one thing these talks almostcannot achieve is settlement of the long-standing Sino-Soviet border dispute. Although some historic territorial claims are involved, thein its broadest sense, is part and parcel of Peking's current bitter rivalry with Moscow. Peking has no intention of abandoning its claim Coquare miles of Sovietolitical rathererritorial issue that the Chinese
Note'; Thia memorandum uae produced eolely by CIA. It uas prepared by the Office of Current Intelligence and coordinated with the Office of National Eetimatee the Office of Strategic Research, and the Office of Basic Geographic Intelligence,
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h.ave been effectively exploiting for six years. Both sides, however, may now be ready to agree to disagree on this broad and intractable issue and move on to other issues where some accord is The Soviets are clearly anxious to bring about sone improvements in state relations and appearto make some compromises on areas in dispute along the border. The Chinese,osition of relative weakness, may be ready to improve their statewith the USSR and possibly to compromisehe question of border demarcation in certainareas. Any positives-results would provide at
least short-term relief from
months and avert new, more serious military actions across the Sino-Soviet border. ":
- . t
Territorialand Otherwise .
block to any effort to ease border tensions has been the "unequal- treatiesolitical rather than territorial issue that grew
between Moscow and Peking tne Cuban missile crisis InChinese criticism,of hisf-Russian-mier Krushchev, in December llll' ch,ided,the Chmese for their continuedance of colonial outhouses" in Hong Kong and Macao Peking responded by reminding Khrushchev that Czar-ist Russia had been an eager participant -in'-the"an*"Chinese territory andubstantial chunk of Soviet Siberia could be added
tolerated by China. Since then, this issue hasatter ofand national prestige for both sides.
2. The Chinese polemicists citeh century treaties under which Russiaquare, miles of territory tha^had'been un-
nhe ^mi"aJ COntrol or domination of Manchu trl.t'i Chinese contend that these "unequal neSGre lnvaIidated fey Lenin0 when the new Soviet government renounced "all seizure of Chinese territory and all the Russian concessions in China. Peking also contends that thisin the Sino-Soviet agreementhich stipulated the annulment of "allagreements, treaties, protocols, contracts,
between the government of China Moscow has flatlyintentions, arguing that theof historical developments,
feely acrived at between representa-
RUSSia and imPecial ^ina, and,
'cemain valid. The Soviets as-
in wm^nS JqS* 2BeSual treaties" were eliminated04 and that no document of the Soviet
any.statement by Lenin ever qualified the border treaties with China as unequal or subject to
he Russians, there is no territorial issue" between the USSR and China, but
he few specific areas in
Se borde^ClSaragreed de*art=ation of
3. Although it does not incorporate aterritorial claim, the "unequal" t of Peking's-?SllfciCfw challe"ge of Moscow. The Chinesethe Russians particularly vulnerable subject, pointing to Soviet defense
ofh century treaties as proof of Moscow'sndharacter.esult, Peking has continued to maintain that any final settlement of Sino-Soviet borderwill require the negotiationew, "equal-treaty. Disavowing any intention of actuallyterritory lost to imperialhe-Chi-nese have consistently stated their villingness to accept the existing frontier as the basiserma-nent.border demarcation, provided that Moscow first acknowledgeh century, treaties establishing -it as unequal." The Soviets, largely for reasons of national prestige, are unwilling to makeoncession. Even if new "equal" treaties were signed confirming Soviet possession of the Faradmission^-that" the- old "treaties had' been unequal would give the appearance that thehad come to Moscow only through Peking's Thisircumstance Moscow clearly finds unacceptable, although the Soviets might be amenable to some compromise wording that would allowiffering interpretation by each side.
Another factor probably affecting.Moscow's calculations is that most of Russia's borders were de--terminedo more equitable manner than was the one with China. Thus admission of the "unequal"ure of the border agreements with China couldlead to agitation on the part of others who adjoin the USSR. In particular, it could aid Japan's frequently stated case for the return of territories seized by the Russians at the end of World Waran argument Moscow already finds vexatious.
Aside from the unequal treaties issue, with all of its political and ideological baggage, Peking has some specific, more limited territorial claims against the USSR that are perhaps more open to Along the eastern sector of the frontier these claims are mostly directed toward the more
'islan'ds' ih"the!Amur and Ussuri border rivers. Peking charges..that,i^iol^^iQn^of^ thetrie?-Russila1iS"arearge number of Chineseexample, -Chen Paohere fighting broke out lasty far the most important of the islands isoviet controlledile-long strip ofland
at the Amur-Ussuri- confluencei]or city of Khabarovsk!
'6. The- treaties, establishing thisfrontier refer to territories on the leftbank, but never to the river itself. circumstances, one of two alternatives isaccepted under international law: eitherof the channel or the.median line of the becomes the boundary. The former isused if the river is navigable, the latteris,
7. The Chinese base their claim to the islands on both these principles of international law. The Soviets assert, however, that the Sino-Soviet border in most instances runs along the Chinese side of the river. The Soviet version of the frontier is not based on the wording of any treaty, but on an al-
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ieged map that accompanies the border treaty ofChinese argue that thethechosen not totoo small inshow accurately either the river boundary or. ,:
8. The Soviet Union's refusal to accept either the main-channel or median-line principle forthe border is clearly related" toetermination to hold Hei-hsia-tzu Island. ese say that the frontier follows the mainiver channel to Khabarovsk, while the Soviets contend
that the boundary is markedinor channel of
the Amur more distant from the city. If Peking's claim were accepted, the Chinese Would be virtuallytone's throw from the. center ofcondition completely unacceptable to Moscow. There are also two smaller Soviet-occupied areas along the eastern sector that are claimed by Peking: quare miles of territory near the border town of Manchouli in western Manchuria,ection on the SovietX.the Amur river-opposite northern-Manchuria.' Neither area has been mentioned recently by Peking, but both are still officially in dispute
. 9. In the western sector, the only area in dispute isquare miles of moun- tainhe Pamir range along China's extreme southwest frontier. Peking contends that Russian troops occupied this area2 in violation of the Sino-Russian boundary protocol The Soviets claim the areaesult of the Anglo-Russian treatyagreement made without China's approval.
10. These areas of specific dispute have alwaysource of friction, especially since the two sides began exchanging propaganda accusationshe border. Subsequently, minor incidents involving gunfire and other "provocations" haveoccurred with some frequency along the frontier, although both sides acted with restraint to keep the situation under control. This pattern of unpublicized and contained tension was abruptly changedowever, by the large-scale clash on theconfrontation thatseven months of overt border conflict.
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"HM mutt not show the stighluiof all countries, unlit and op-
ayild beenany tier of agpession launched by
Imperialism or social-imperialism, es-Mao Tie-rung pectally one in which atom bombsuneI969 used as
Chinese National Day slogan9
Confrontation on the Border: Peking Flinches
The beginning of border talks in Peking on
ctober marked the end of China's retreat from determined and aggressive exploitation of tho border disputeosition of defensivesuggested by the contrasting tone of the above Chinese statements. The precise circumstances sur-.rounding the initial clash'on the Ussuri River in9 will probably never be -known. It seems very likely, however, that both tho clash and the subsequent seven months of conflict were prompted in large part by the more aggressive and provocative Chinese moves on the border problem that followed the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in
12. The Soviet intervention afforded Peking new opportunities to attack the USSR as anand "revisionist" power. Exploitation of Sino-Soviet border tension was an ideal method for the Chinese to portray Moscow as an unreliable ally menacing all socialist states; to this end thebegan to publicize widely the Russian military activity and air intrusions along the Sino-Soviet frontier. More importantly, the Chinese probably also believed a'more provocative stance on the frontier was necessary in order to offset their own weak position. Beginning inhe Russians had steadily increased their forces near the Sino-Soviet border, as well as in Mongolia. By, the Soviets had massed somend air and missile units in the frontierthe number
faced with this increasingpower along the border and virtuallyinternational support, must have viewedthe application of the "Brezhnevand, in Chinese eyes, itsfor China. Although Peking almostdid not fear direct Soviet invasion itinterpreted the. "Brezhnev Doctrine'! as_.anof Soviet readiness to step up politicalpressure against China. Given theseChina's strong action on the ussuri andto exploit the resulting tension appear
to haveistinctly Maoist methodrence. Byard-line posture,as demonstrating to Russia that despite itswith internal problems it was determined to resist Soviet pressures and to defend China's territorial.rights, while at the same time calling world attention to the Soviet "threat." As-anbenefit, the Chinese could make use oftension with Moscow to foster internal unity androperly-militant atiTOSphere" lhwhicH'" to implement the regime's newest domesticnd economic programs.-.
the spring and earlyruculent line on the borderseizing on alleged border provocations"new tsars" in Moscow in order to drivecase and to play on Moscow's currentwith Eastern Europe. In his report toparty congress in April, Lin Piaoshortly after the initial Ussuri clasheshad refused toelephone call fromleadership regarding the tensefollowing month the Chinese released ato earlier Soviet proposals for taUcsclearly timed to undercut Moscow's positiondispute on the eve of the World Communistin Moscow. The statement predictablyonus on the Russians for the borderreiterated the rigid Chinese demand thatthat the present frontier was basedtreaties."
- Chinese were becoming less confl-
SS war^fCOmPete sUccSsfu?!y
as sayingnd Chou
at Peking Airport.9
18. This new attitude of the Chinese opened the way for Premier Kosygin's unprecedented flying trip to Peking oneptember, which was clearly intended by Moscow to provide the final nudge toward negotiations on the borderof Kosygin's remarks to ChoV Eh^iai at the Pekingstern or conciliatory, they had the desired ctober, Peking formally announced that the Chinese would meet with the Russians. The Chinese statement, while obviously attempting to strengthen Chi na's case, abandoned the contention that discussions to ease the border conflict would require Moscow's prior recognition that the present boundary was based on "unequal treaties." hinese position paper on the border released the following dayPeking's argumentinal, over-allwould require such an acknowledgement, it could not disguise Peking's retreat--the Chinese had agreed to border talks on Soviet terms.
what Is There To Talk About?
19. Moscow and Peking have come to thetable with different outlooks and objectives, and the two sides have had difficulty in deciding what to talk about. Moscow, judging that itenjoys both political and military advantage over the Chinese, is pressingettlement that would in effect remove the border problem from the list of fundamental Sino-Soviet differences. Although there might well be circumstances in which thecould find the unsettled border problem with
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China useful, they are obviously pressing for aof the contentious issue at this time. aim is far more limited: the prevention of war,inimum compromise of Chinese territorial and political claims. There has been no sign of Chinese readiness to arrivear-reachingon Soviet terms.
20. Presently, the talks appear blockedhe Chinese contention that the negotiation ofissues should be preceded by agreement on interim steps to cool down the dangerous situation on the border. In its statementctoberto the talks, Peking specifically emphasized" military disengagement in "disputedFirm agreement on an end to hostilities along the frontier would-probably satisfy most of China's objectives in the talks. The Chinese would create theof becoming more reasonable, and the threat of more serious conflict would be greatly reduced--all without jeopardy to Peking's political andclaims. Theweredly-reluctant to acceptimited'tacticalwithout broader agreement on specificdifferences. They will certainly raise the question of border demarcation in disputed areas such as the Amur and Ussuri River islands, where fighting broke out last spring. Progress on this sticky and now emotional issue, however, will be difficult. Much will depend on how hard Moscow presses and on what degree of bluff, if any, the Chinese see in the Soviet position.
21. At this point Peking could choose to adopt an intransigent position, insisting thatmeet its demands on the "unequal treaty"bofore further steps are taken. On balance, however, it seems unlikely that the Chinese will allow these talks to break down in acrimony, presence at the talks is eloquent testimony of its concern over Soviet intentions, and themust consider that the adoptionotally uncompromising position would provide Moscowerfect opportunity for resorting to harshermeasures.
ndeed, Peking may believe it ismpS0miSe fome of its specific territorial
lovie? aiks goin* Md diminishP I espect, the question of Hei-hsia-tzu island will undoubtedly be central to any agreement. The Soviet legal claim to this
UStlS^iiJ iB,portant island is Practicallyxistent, but Moscow has made it clear that Soviet
KS?? is not negotiable. onceivably might be willing to accept
olesa imPortant areas if the Chinese formally cede Hei-hsia-tzu to them. Moscow, for example, could agree to abide by the
mam channel" formula in other "stretches of "the" Amur and Ussuri rivers. Such an agreement would give Chxna possession of most of the disputed river islands, including Chen Pao (Damansky) island, where the current trouble allropaganda
urrendering their claim to Damansky after
ebitter pill for the Soviets to swallow. Nevertheless, they have
illingness to consider "mutual^nces-
in negotiations over the
disputed territory. Thishat in order to.ontentious issue they would be willing to surrender some pieces of real estate that are of HIm; Damansky, as well as most of the Ussuri islands, seems to have little strategic or economic importance to the Russians. Early re-
Kaft-Sin fact' claim
Soviets appear most flexible on theof these islands. Even if agreement is reached ^ Ce"itorial adjustments, however, there seems no chance that the revisions would be incorporatedew treaty redefining the entire border. In agreeing to the current talks Peking served notice on Moscowinal settlement will still require Moscow's acknowledgement of the "unequal" treaties and the negotiationew "equal" treaty. The
loited this artificialt*3 clearly intend to keep it alive for use in future polemics.
from some progress in resolvingquestion of border demarcation, thewell lead to some degree of improvement in The Soviets have long believed thatfriends and foes have taken advantage ofwith the critical state ofChina and would like to relieve some ofobvious aspects of Sino-Soviet enmityj;meeting with Chou En-laioneptember,reported to haveeturn ofan expansion of trade, and the TASSthe beginning of the current talksthat Moscow expects issues other than, thoto be taken up. Further evidence of thismay be the assignment of FirstMinister Kuznetsoy^to handle theower level official who had beendesignated to head the Soviet delegationrecommended border talks last June. TheCould have only been encouragedctober, which clearly opened the
door for, some movement in.this arear emphasized that their ideological differences with Moscow should not prevent improvement in state-to-stato relations, which they added, should bounder the *five principles of peacefulfirst time the formulation had been employed in this connection in recent years.
of this suggests that the Chineseto use the prospect of improved statea major bargaining tool in maneuvering awayserious military confrontation with Chinese acceptance of the steps proposedwould in no way compromise theirposition or significantly interfere withexpressed intention to continueagainst Soviet "revisionism." On thean agreement to improve state relationspaper over failure to achieveof the border dispute.
26. In sum, the talks are likely to result intanddown of provocative military activity in the inaediate border area and, possibly, territorial adjustment--that will
minimize the chance of further conflict. losing out of the dangerous situation of the past seven months would probably be symbolically marked by some degree of improvement in state relations--perhaps to the cold but correct status prevailing before the Cultural Revolution. Even if the talks were to drag on almost indefinitely, their very existence couldlimate in which these developments could tako place. acticalowever, would in no way ease the fundamentaland ideological differences separating the two sides. The past seven months of border conflict have further increased the basic suspicion andbetween Peking and Moscow; real Sino-Soviet rapprochement appears as far away as ever.Original document.