MEMO 2./20/69 REACTIONS TO A US COURSE OF ACTION

Created: 2/20/1969

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R 11

INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

OFFICE Cf NATIONAL ESTIMATES

9

rirMQRANDUK FOR ME DIRECTOR

SUBJECT: ReactionsS Course of Action

THE PROBLEM

To estinate various reactions to US air and/or fecund attacks against VC base areas in Cambcdia.

ASSUMPTIONS

VC/BVA Forces launch et&Jor offensivesareas including Saigon, Hue, and Dejiang.

retaliation, US air end/or ground forcesidentified VC base areas in Cambodia.

reactions of world opinion and of thedirectly concerned would be primarily determinedgeneral context in which the attacks against Whether they were accompanied byevere escalation of the warajorUS policy, or whether they appeared as isolated andof retaliation. In addition, Sihjjjiouk's response would

be largely governed by the location and duration of the operations in Cambodian territory.

reaction. Sihanouk appears presentlywarm up his relations with the US, and will probablyto the recent US initiatives, doubtless with He may have begun to hedge his bets on theVietnam, or at least to change his views on the lengthIt will take the Caaaunists to achieve theirattacks on targets in Cambodia in the neartherefore comeelicate Juncture in usthat country.

3* Ii* the attacks were directed against bases in populated areas, or conductedide area or repeatedly, they would wreck any chance of reconciliation with Sihanouk for acne time to cone, whether or not the US Government announcod its action, it could not take place on any considerable scale without being oade public knowledge by the press and radio.

let Sihanouk is not eager to exacerbate his relations with the US. Thereood chance that one or two US air strikes in tho remote and virtually unpopulated areas of the northeast part of Canbodia would evoke no moreeri^uictory protest from him; he night even ignore then altogether. He could not Ignore or fail totrike delivered in the populated area of the south, where several of the Cooauniot bases ere located. And he would have to react if the Ccomunists made vociferous propoflsnrJa about the attack, wherever it was delivered.

5. Around operations would appearore serious violation of Cowoodlan territory. They wouldonsiderable risk of involving Cstibodian forces in clashes with US troops. Sihanouk

vould also be distressed and angered by the prospect cf having vc/HVA force*.core deeply Into his territory. He could do little to atop thla and would blanc the US for his predicament. Re eight take his esse to the UB and vouldtry to activate the ICC to expose the US transgressions.

yiotiwuiipan and VC Reaction. Thewould expect to pay setae price for attackingcities and thereby violating theat the tine the boRibing of North Vietnan was stopped;probably anticipate sone air strikes against thewocld be prepared to accept an Interruption of the They have al&oat certainly ttvken account ofand an Intensive assault on cajor Southwould indicate that they bolievod the potential lr-pact

of their offensive would more than offset possible LB military retaliation.

CcciTunists could be hurt militarily, dependingscale and duration of the US attacks, and especially onto which ground action was involved. They wouldthe US bad changed Its policy significantly, that it was

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willing to take new action as necessary to support its military position, and that it was no longer confined by past restriction!!.

S. On the other hand, the Corjgunists would see propaganda advantages in claims that the US was expanding the scale and urea of conflict, endangering the Paris peace talks, violating Cambodian sovereignty, and killing civiliansountryto be neutral. They would certainly press these consideration9 on the attention of world opinion.

9- The Paris talks. The postulated attacks, in the context of Ccitounist attacks on South Vietnamese cities, would raise the noise level of the exchanges in Paris. But we do not think that because of these attacks the Caaiuniats would brook off the Paris talks for good, though they might threaten to do so, or perhaps bringemporary suspension of meetings in an effort to rally world opinion against the US and US domestic opinion against the government. Hanoi would indeed probably calculate that US attacks on Cambodian territory, with their attendant publicity, would increase US domestic pressures for an early end to the war.

10. The OVH. Thereood chance that vigorous Couaunlet attacks on 3aigon and other major cities in South Vietnam would prompt the GVR to walk out of the Paris talks. Ita disposition to do so, or to demand that the US break off the talks, would be diminishedS retaliatory attack on Coitmunist bases in Cambodia.

U. China and the USSR would join vigorously in the Cambodian and North Vietnamese propaganda assault on the US. Peking would welcome the prospect that negotiations might break down and heavier fighting be renewed. Moscow would be disturbed by the turn of events but would probably judge that the US merely meant totrong response to an attack on Saigon, and was still primarily interested in seeing an early conclusion to the war. It would probably use its influence to prevent any complete breakdown of the Paris talks.

12. Other Reactions. Clearly the world at largeexcept for the Chinese Ccumunisthopes that the war in Vietnam will soon end. There would be widespread disappointment and disapproval of further escalation of the fighting, and of the extension of it into new areas. Me are assuming, however, that US attacks would

B

bo in retaliationubstantial previous escalation by CctMinitt forces. IfJauclst attack* on cities werearge scale and produced destrvietive results, the US would not be solely blamed for the new devclopiiont. There wouldreat deal of criticiSB, of appeals to the US to exercise restraint, to refrain frco an extended ctutpnlgn in Cambodian territory, and toew effort in the Paris talka. governoients would probably lend support to Canibodia'l cause in thectie would try to bring about fortial UK con-danrnation of the US action. In short, we do not believe that the postulated US action could be uMertaken on any vary effective scale without pollticol repercussions.

PC* THE BQAivltKTlOKAL SSTIMATES:

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