MEMO 1/5/68 COMMUNIST REACTIONS TO CERTAIN US MILITARY OPERATIONS IN VIETNAM

Created: 1/5/1968

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CENTRAL UtntlOIRCI AQEBCI

OFTICSATIOIIAL ESTIMATES

5 JanuM-/

MEH^AKDUM rOA THE DIRECTOR

SUBJECT! Communist Reactions to Certain US Military Operations la vietnea

2. GENERAL COMSrCERATIOMS

1. How would tba Communists raact toround fores operations in ths northern portion ofr In iamsdietely adjacent territory of Horth Vietnam? Wo think the primary factor influencing their reactions vould be not so much the Immediate sffsct of the US actions, but rather what they believed these actions conveyed as to eventual US intentions. Mould they estimate that tho US was seeking only to neutrsllte !Cceaiunist bases and sanctuaries in border areas? Or would they judge that the US was making the first stovesaoslvc invasion of Horth Vietnam and thusajor change ia the war? In attempting to decipherntentions, the Ccaaunlsts would

take lato account not only tha nature and aeopa of the US oparatlona north ofh parallel, hut alio any significant Boreeent or new deployment of us forcai In SVH, and US operations in other araaiaos and Cambodia). Obviously they vould also consider what the US aald about Its objectives, hut would be little Inclined to take these statements at face value.

the three Comaunlst powers, Hanoi wouldthe most somber view of tha US action. Hanoifears that the US vlll progesalvely increaseon Berth Vietnam and gradually extend Its objectives

to Include dastruction of the regime. US operation* of appreclab] site and scope in the northern DKZ, and particularly an extension of such operations further Into Horth Vietnamese territory, would greatly reinforce such fears. Peking would be inclined to share Hanoi's apprehensions. As for the Soviets, they would probably not discard their estimate that US Intentions were leas far reach than Hanoi and Peking feared, but their confidence Inudgment would ba weakened.

important aspect of the situation would ba thepublic opinion In the united States and th* non-Ccnaunlst worl

generally. Boall-*cal* operations confined to the northern Dt would arouse some concern and criticism. But ifround fo: went beyond the DMZ further Into North Vietnam, in numbers gr enough to be appreciable, there would be outbursts of dlsappr and alarm In stoet of the ncn-Cosnunist world. Most of tbe apprehension would be over tho Increased prospectslno-war. Thef course, would try to exploit such sentiment. Indeed, they night anticipate that international reaction would be an Important factor restraining the US froa any large-ecale move Into North Vietnamese territory.

h. Based on these factors, the Coamuniets would determl theirould include not only latnedlat tactical stoves to oope with the new tactical situation,onger-tern preparations to deal with possible future US acti Hanoi would have to consider not only new deployments of Its force! but whether tha tlae had come to request more extenslv help froa other Communist countrlee, including the lntroductl of Chinese ground combat force* Into North Vietnam in some ni

9> At th* cane time, the progress of the warew level might cause tha North Vietnamese leader* to believe th<course was to aake some oove toward peace. On the wholf

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however,think it more likely that Hanoi would refuse to enter negotiation* under thesend vould continue fighting. Tho following paragraphs proceed on the assumption that this vould ha the North Vietnamese decision.

n. SPECIFIC RESPONSES

The North VlotnojqcflO Position

6. In recent months, the North Vietnamese leaders have indicated increased concern over the possibility that the US will expand ground actions into North Vietnam. In September, Generalp publicly speculated on this and warned that tho US vould beember of the "socialist camp." Recently tbe North Vietnamese Chief of staff claimed that tho US was conslderln "now attacks against tho northern part of the deal11tarited" ir, aa thole statements suggsst, tho North Vietnamese leaders have given serious thoughtShey presumably have roughed out their own counteractions, end, as Olap Implies, the expected contributions from the "socialist camp."

7- The Horth Vietnamese vould, of course, contest any US operation in the DfG, regardless of its slse. They have fairly

large forcaa la thli general area, and they would try to lnfll a* much punishment as possible on tho US, hoping thereby to deter any further operations, As long as the operations wereairly snail scale and raaained within the DMZ, Hanoi wou probably not go muchactical response. Ccemunlst forces in South Vietnam would try to take advantage of whateve opportunities were createdhinning out of US forces for the DHZ operations.

0. It is possible that Hanoi xdght try to relieve th* pressures on the DHZ by increased military action In Laos, tb Horth Vletravaese leaders might calculate that United moves either in the panhandle or nothern provinces would detor the US from plans to enlarge the DM2 operations. This seems unlikely, however. Hanoi would probably Judge that military escalation In Laos would only hasten larger US actions against Horth Vietnam. And it would want to conserve it* force* agait the threatajor US invasion,

. If UB operations in the DHZ, and especially in Horth Vietnamese territory immediately adjacent, were conductedairly large scale, Hanoi would take soma now steps to detcx

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the US. More forces vould be aoved southward Into the panhandl of North Vietnam. Propaganda denunciations and threatsmplified. Hanoi vould urge Moscow and Peking to lend their voices toampaign. If US operations were extended further north in the panhandle, Hanoi would probably request Peking to bring Chines* combat troops into the northernorth Vietnam (a)urther deterrent and (b) to release Nor Vietnamese troops for deployment to the coastal areas and the D

Peking's Psactlon

10. The ooofusad internal situation makes Chinese Intentions difficult to assess, but ve believe the Chinese remain basically cautious aboutllitarywith th* US. Small scale US operations in the DMZ or evaibeyond probably would not cause any change in Chinese policy, Peking would, of course, join in tbe propaganda choru and probably would be quicker than Moscow to make soma demonst response to an appeal from Hanoi,

U* If US operations became progressively larger and extended further into North Vietnam, Peking would become increasingly concerned that theyrowing threat

to tba existence of tha Hanoi regime. China vould want to debar further US actions while stillirectwith the US. It would probably calculate that the best means toward these ends vould he to give firm indications that it vas prepared at some point to fight. Appearing to hesitate or equivocate might seem to Peking to be in the longore dangerous course. Accordingly, ve think that the Chinese leaders would, if requested by Hanoi, send ground combat force into North Vietnam. But these troops vould he highly unlikely to move far enough south to engage US forces ac long as Peking felt that Horth Vietnamese forces vera still capable of containing the US threat.

12. The Chinese vould probably notilitary diversion elsewhere around China's periphery. arger Chinese Involvoreont in North Vietnam would probably bo attended by other military movements within china precautionary from Peking's point of view. International tensions vould greatly Increase, and the US could never be certain that Chinese military moves did not have mors ominous Implication* than mere deterrence.

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Tha Soviet Petition

a long aa the US act lone remained fairly United site, we think Soviet reaction* would he confined to caterla and political support for Hanoi. To help allay Hanoi's Inor apprehensionajor US Invasion, Soviet support would pr Include those kind* of weapons which could strengthen Hanoi' capability to deal withhreat. The Soviets might he that providing "volunteers" to nan sons of these weapon* wou have tone deterrent value on the US. The Soviets would also to check further US action by warning* andoliticalagainst the USerminating certain negotiations or contacts).

If US nllltary operations expanded further into He Vietnam andairly large scale, the Soviets wouldritical turning point in the war. They would fearction*irect threat toexistence andwould forceee that the Chinese presence and influence in Hoi Yletnan would vastlyhey would feelecome much more active in trying to forestall *uch develops

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one thing, the Sovlnto vould probably feelto speak more forthrightly to Hanoi, pointing out thatmade some move toward peace it facedefeat byoverwhelming dependence on China. But they recogniseto Influence Hanoi is limited, especially sincecertainly not prepared to pay the political costs ofaid, or oven of making serious threats to do so.

the same time, the Soviets would certainlythey might put direct pressure on the US to force it toin Vietnam. They could, for example, introduce atnumber of their own combat units into Northa diversionary crisis elsewhere. We think itthat they wouldajor military clash withVietnam, where their forece would bereatdependent on long linos of ccmreunieatioo. As forcrisis with the US in some other area, say inia our view, constitute moreisk than thedisposed to run for the sake of their interests inthat tho USSR,atter of general policy, wouldwhich would have the effect of convertingorld-wide showdown with the US.

17. Short of such extreme reactions, however, the Soviet* would elaoet certainlyscat limited moves, perhaps even In Berlin, which would be intended to create the impressionituation of great danger waa developing. They would probably vara the US with considerable vigor and undertake scoe daaonctratlv political act such aa breaking off the Geneva disarmamentor recalling the "ovist Ambassador. In abort, UB-Sovlet tension* vould be greatly heightened.

TOR WE BOARD OP lUTIONAL ESTIMATES

ABBOT SMITH Cnelrmaa

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