MEMO 4/12/67 COMMUNIST POLICY AND THE NEXT PHASE IN VIETNAM

Created: 4/12/1967

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CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY OFFICE OP RATIONAL ESTIMATES

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MEMORANDUM

SUBJECT: COTwnlst Policy and too Kutt Phase in Vietnam

wc hare been asked to estimate the likely Cmunlat reactions to various US courses of action over the next several raonths. These are dealt with In Section II. But since tbcso reactions will necessarily be basedhe CoDounlsts' view of the current situation end the state of the wax, ve have discussed this topic In Section I.

I. CttMUHTSxF THL POLITICAL AND HTLITAIff SITUATION

1. Hanoi's release oaarch af private correspondence betveen President Johnson and Ho Chi llinh apparently narked the enduriod of diplomatic probing that began last fall. This unusual act baa been accompanied by other signs that Sorth Vietnam's position is hardening. Ccesnunist forces have become more aggressive in recent Hecks; there axe indications that,ull,may be picking up. Hanoi may also be reinforcing the DMZ area. Some new weapons have been introduced in South Vietnam. In short, recent Horth Vietnamese actions seem tourther period of heightened military effort, and probably also further American escalation.

E. Recently captured documents throw some light on now the North Vietnamese probably view tbelr general position and the course of future dcvelopaent. ear ago. General Vlnb, tbe Deputy Commander of Comnun 1st forces In South Vietnam,three phases of future development: (a) fighting, (b) fighting while negotiating, and (o) negotiating and signing of an agreement. It is possible that the first phase lasted through the offensive in tbe DMZ last summer. Subsequently, heavy infiltration

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Blackened and more eupliaeia was placed on improving guerrilla capa-bilitlea. It was during this period that certain hints were dropped about the possibility of negotiations. By the end of Tet, however, it was apparently concluded In Hanoi that no political concessions were In sight, and that another round of fighting was called for.

3. If thisorrect, thoo Hanoi probably has not yet seen any need to moderate its main objectives, but does Intend topursue more varied and flexible tactics. The present shift toward heavier combat and reinforcements in the South would be viewed as necessary to condition the enemy tooreapproach to negotiations on the next occasion. Hanoi would, as the Vlnh document indicated, still reject tbe extreme Chinese view of fighting "sevenntil China was prepared to join in an "all-out, borderless war." At the ease tine, it would not yet be prepared to accept what the document alleged to be the

General Vlnh asserted: "Fighting continues until tho emergenceituation where both sides ore fightingituation where fighting and negotiations are conducted simultaneously will unmistakably emerge."

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Soviet/East European approach: to negotiate an lanedlate end to the wax and work for power by essentially political tacticsS withdrawal,

I*. The Military Situation. Anon- the cany elementsHanoi's outlook, the military situation in the South Is probably still the prime factor. It seems fairly certain that Hanoi concluded sonc time agourely nllitary solution was impossible. The result, however, seems to haverowing uncertainty and confusion over proper tactics in the military effort. On the one band, some Borth Vietnamese leaders seem to regard guerrilla activities and the war of attrition as the basic line to follow. On the other hand, there appears to be on obsessiai todecisive" battle that would suddenly alter the entire relationship of political and military forces. Of course, these two approaches are not mutually exclusive, and in recent weeks there seems to haveompromise of sorts which emphasizes an across the board military effort.

5. The major current question is whether the Borth Vietnamese appreciate the realities of the military scene. Does the current Intensification of combatost, desperate effort toa major defeat on the US, or Is It one more campaign In tho

protracted war of attrition? Toe evidence suggests that tbe latter is the more likely. Even so, thisourse of considerable risk. Throughout the past year, the Ccomtunlst forces have suffered heavy losses, recruitment in South Vietnam has been increasingly difficult, and there have been accumulating signs of deterioration and lowered morale in the VC military-political apparatus. It may be that tbe top connanri in Hanoi is to some extent deluded with respect to the progress achieved thus far in the war of attrition* captured documents suggest that Communist field commanders are reporting far greater US and ARVH casualties than they are in fact inflicting. Thus, the Hanoi war planners may over-estimate their proapecte.

The Attitudes of Peking and Moscow. The events of the last few months. Including tbe upheaval in China, have driven Moscow and Peking even farther apart on all issues and on Vietnam in particular. Even if nev arrangements to expedite Soviet supplies through Chine have been made Hanoi must remain concerned about how the state of Si no-Soviet relations may affect the war effort,

The Chinese for their part seem far from reassured that Hanoi can be trusted to fight ioiefinitely. This suspicion is reflected in Chinese handling of the diplomatic maneuvering of

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the past several months. The Chincsaorcd statements from Hanoi which set forth the latter's terms for beginning discussions with tho US. Ibreover, at the conclusionigh level Horth Vietnamese visit to9he Chinese publicly denounced the idea of starting negotiations with the US if bombing ceased, even though this very formula had just been reconfirmed In the Ho Chi MLnh letter.

3. The net result of this exchange has been to Introduce another abrasive into SlnoWietnamese relations. China is Intent on persuading Hanoiong war of attrition will end with complete victory. And to this end new pledges of assistance and possibly acne aid acroenents have boon node. Yet tho Chinese public conmltraent has been hedged somewhat,* Hostility to any form of united action with the USSR in Vietnam la as strong as ever. And tho entire course of the cultural revolution thus far points

The latests to "fight shoulder to shoulder with the Vietnamese people and coopletcly wipe out the UB aggressors as soon aa tho situation requires, the Vietnamese people require, and Chairman Mao,eat suproroo commander, gives the order."

to an Increasingly Slno-cerjtrlo outlook and to possible long-teroi political Instability, which also oustource ofconcern In Hanoi.

9* eve toward negotiation by Hanoi contained in the Burchett-Trtnh interflow led, on the occasion of Kosygin's February visit to Ixaodon, to a, flurry of 8owlet diplomacy. After many months of flat refusal to engage In mediating activity, Koaycjin pressed the British to use their Influence in Washington toesponse to Hanoi's move. There Is nothat Moscow was at the sane time pressing Hanoi to offer anything In response to the OB demand that coo sat ion of the bombing mustseanlngful quid pro gup. So fax as is known, Koeygln stayed within the letter of the brief which the Burchett-Trlnh Interviews provided: the possibility of talks If the bombing ceased,

10. Hanoi, however. Ignored the Koaysin-Wilson byplay; after the Soviet Premier departed, Hanoi viciously denounced Wilson. Subsequent speeches by Kosygln seemed to indicate an effort to fall In line with Hanoi's position. At the same time, the Soviets have been at pains to Indicate that despite tbe of the Johns tin-Ho letters, Hanoi's position for negotiations has been consistent and dooe nototal rebuff to the UB.

The Soviets probably concluded from the February episode that nonitiative by then vould be effective at the present stage. All signs continue to Indicate that their Influence on Hanoi Is limited, and that they are unwilling to risk applying real pressure In an attempt to move Hanoi toward For tho presont, new appealo to the Soviets to be holpful In getting talks started would probably bring only stone-wallLdg responces that the bonblng must stop first.

arger context, the Soviets are probably of two minds about the situation in Vietnam. They must see It as extremely advantageous to them in many way a. it diverts most IE political and strategic attention away iron areas of primary interest to the USSR, and Itubstantial proportion of UB military forceo-in-belnj. Furthermore, the war has alienatod many US allies and associates, and Itivisive factor within the US itself. On the other hand, tho conflict holds embarrassing and potentially dangerous aspects for tbacow. The bombing of Rorth Vietnamontinuing reproach to the Soviet Union, unable as it is to protect its small ally. There is the prospect that the U5 nay undertake new courses of action which vould pose more directileit challenges to the USSR.

There li the chance that It could expandargerinvolving China directly end placing the USSRrave dUcaraa. In short, there nust be many excellent rcaaone why the soviet leaders vould like to eeo the var coco to an end, and many very good reasons why they would like to see It continue, as long as it does not get much worse.

13. In this situation the broad courses of action open to the Soviets are all unprcBaieing and Gone are dangerous. If they attempt to force Hanoi Intoy threatening to stop suppliesthey may fall, for Hanoi can fight on If It wishes, without Soviet aid. ailure would effectively end all Soviet Influence In Hanoi, throw north Vietnam entirely back on China, and diminish Soviet prestige In the Communlot world as well as In manycountries. The sace calamities vould follow If Moscow simply withdrew its support of Hanoi in order to escape the risks of deeper involvement. On the other hand, Moscow cannot undertake any serious military participation in the conflict, with Its own combat forces, withoutost disadvantageous location, far from the sources of Soviet rover, and at tho end of lines of cocBTunlcatloc pas sic-through the dubiously friendly territory of China. Finally, if

ibscow tried to influence the US by heavy pressures elsewhere in tho worldBerlin, for example, or tho Kiddle Eastvould riskartial US mobill tatIonajor International crisis. We see no indication that Moscow believes its Interests In Vietnam to be jreat enough to Justifyisky confrontation.

la. Considering everything, then, it seems to us that the Soviets see no feasible alternative but to follow their present policy of continuing the current level of support to Hanoi, vhile avoiding any -rent pressure on either Borth Vietnam or on the US to end the war. Tha Soviet loadors probably hope that the conflict will Indeed come to an end vitliout any further substantial escalation. If they could only be aura that there vould be no such escalation they vould probably bo content to have the struggle continue indefinitely. It remains to consider tbelr probable reactions to the postulated courses of UB action, which in themselvesurther escalation.

II. O ESCALATTOH

SSU1 (Triors: ubstantial increase In the scope and intensity of attacks on military, Industrial, andtargets. Current restrictions on operations near the Chinese border and onn population centers as such remain in effect. Mining of harbors end bombing the dike system or airfields are excluded. We also assume that the war in South Vic toon becomes more Intense.

The Sconoulc Consequences. uccessful bombin* attecU against modern industry am an intensive effort to interdict the land transport system vould create serious problems for the Horth Vietnamese. Dux in- the short-run adjustment period the disruption of internal distribution systems raisht bo severe. Tho flow of essential military and economic soods to Horth Vietnam, however, could almost certainly bo sustained, an could the onward movement of supplies to Laos and South Vietnam. onger period, the cumulative effects of the bombing on morale and distribution could increase, but vc cannot say at what point they ouV?itsignificant factors affecting the regime's policies.

Tlie major effect of Industrial destruction would be to increase annualiremonts from the present level of about 'ilOO tons per day to0 tons. There are several ways the Horth Vietnamese could ranlcc up tho increased requirements:

by land transport, by sea imports, or by some combination.60 tons per day were imported by rail. If the requirements resulting from the destruction of industry were added to the present burden on the rail lines, the new level would be less0 tons per day. This ia still well under the capacity of the lines, at present levels of moderatewhich ve estimateO tons per day.

17. If; however, tbe bombing of the LOCs were successful in greatly reducing the capacity of the rail lines, then the port facilities at Haiphong would have to handle not only the increased requirements generated by the bombing but some of the imports currently brought In by rail. Haiphong is theoretically capable of handling the entire Increase resulting from the destruction of Industry. This vould raise total dally tonnages toompared with the current level of0 tons. In this situation, however, Haiphong could only assume aboutercent of the tonnages currently moved by rail, even by operating the port facilities at their theoretical capacityay. Jhlntalnlng the port's activity at this level wouldighly difficult and confused operation.

10. Thus, the port of Haiphong could not assume Worth Vietnam's entire import burden. The ronainlnr; imports,those military supplies no really moved by land transport, could be transported by truck and by rail Bhuttle service In spite of the incrcaood attach on highways and railroads.

North Vietnam. In theso circumstances, vc vould not expect to see radically different moves from Hanoi. Ho'sof raclprocal actions was taken in full recognition of the livelihood that It vould be followed by stcpped-up U3 air attacks on Horth Vietnam. Indeed, Hanoi's strategy of prolonging the war Irspllos acceptance of further substantlcl US escalationllllngnesB to escalate Its own effort in the South.

Hanoi's aim vould bo to further reinforce its defenses and its capabilities for keeping essential supplies flowing into the North and to the South. To this end, Hanoi would seek additional military and economic assistance from both China and the USSR. In fact,f tho measures that might offset the effects of intensified bombing have already occurred or are in process. Further Chinese assistance was apparently one of the

purposes the high level nee ting In Peking tn February, and new Chineoe contingents of AAA troops wore on the way even prior to theGe talks. An expanded bombing program might require anen for repair and maintenance and tho Chinese might supply some portion of tiiom.

level of Soviet shipping to Worth Vietnam hasrecent months. Some airfields In the DRV have beennew deployments of the SAM system have been noted Inpart of the DRV. Strengthening of coastal defenses

is underway, and this could Include the deploymentoastal defense missileange.ound warhead.

support the war in theecord levelarjparcntly is being put through the infiltrationmedium artillery has apparently been moved down to the There are continuing Indicationsurther movementor divisions into this area and Into the northernof South Vietnam. ew rocltet launcher has appearedVietnam. Recent tactics of the Coianunlst forcesheavier nrortars or art ill cry may be deployed with theunits,

23. ore demonstrative retaliation to the Intensified US boshing, Hanoi might consider air or naval attacka on US carriers, on air attack on South Vietnam, an Intensification of the Cocisuniot military action against government forces in Laos. We think these are unlikely because the anticipated gains would appear to be mwr-gjnn] and the probable US reactions could be very damaging.

China. Peking would surely be willing to increase its support of Borth Viet nan in both men and material, though we have no way of knowing what celling If any the Vietnamese might fix on the site of Chinese manpower support. Presumably thewould want more AAA and engineer units as the bombing of LCCs is stepped up. If Hanoi and Peking believedS invasion had become more likely, they might consider introducing some Chinese combat troops. Some construction activity In North Vietnam and other Intelligence suggests contingency planningarger Chinese role, but the evidence is not conclusive. In any case, the size and composition of Chine go forces In North Vietnam is likely to be determined by Hanoi's general policy, rather than ita specific reactioniven level of bombing.

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25- The USSR. The Soviets vould also Increase their aid to Hanoi In response to the increased US fc crab Ing. Araong other reasons, they vould not vish to appear laggardime when further Chinese aid was forthcoming. Thereumber of weapons tbe USSR could provide which vould materially help the Vietnamese without greatly Increasing the direct risks to the USSR. If the SovietsS naval blockade, mining, or new troubles In China, they might provide some of these weapons quite promptly and try to buildtockpile of weapons already in use.

26. Withoutomplete list, ve note below certain sorts of weapons or equipment that Moscow might furnish:

A. Air Defense

Anf improved effectiveness, such as is currently used in Soviet forces but not yet provided to Horth Vietnam.

A mobile SAM (tbeith aeffective altitude0 feet compared to an estimated 3COO feet for theow In Horth Vietnam. (This system may not yet have been distributed to Soviet forces, however.)

3. Th-m AAA gun,ate ofinea that of gun* in Borth Vietnam.

*. Theighter aircraft with greater Intercept range and lew altitude attack capability In all weather conditions than the, tbe heat fighter now in Horth Vietnamese hands.

b. Ground Weapons

Antitank missiles, antitank artillery, bearler erawentional0 ono bowlttor, heavier oortarB, some chemical munltlona). Some of thaae could he uaed In South Vietnam aa well.

C Ccsstal Defense

Coastal defense missiles.

KUMAR guided mlaslla patrol boats, carrying an armament of two. surface-to-surface missiles.

Several of these wessons could not he used by Vietnamese without extenslre training, hut acme might he operated by Soviet personnel.

27. Suanary. a vould net anticipate great change in the policies and reactions of the Ceramist powers in responseombing program, beyond the furnishing of soar new equipment and manpower. Defending Borth Vietnam and maintaining the war effort In the South would continue to be the principal concerns. As long as these two objectives seemed to be met, resort to more drastic measures or supply of radically different types of equipment would not oeeaa likely. At tbe sane time, this course vould probably not bring about negotiations, unless there were some developments In the war In South Vietnam which Hanoi Judged made negotlntioca eeesi expedient oravorable noaent for talks.

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SSUKPTZCSS: Course A, plus the raining of North VIetneia porta.

action vould threaten Hanoi's ability towar and maintain Its own Internal situation, thusa new decision about the Datura and extent of It would also directly test the extent ofto support Hanoi. Finally, it could put China In

a corooanding political position, since it would have control over the only remaining supply lines to North Vietnam.

USSR. An effective mining operationarticularly galling dilemma. Tha Sovlots wouldto accept the humiliation or the political disadvantagesseaborne shipments to North Vietnam. Yet It wouldmajor military effort to reopen the shipping routes; theya minimum, hove to bring in minesweepers, other navalprotection, probably some air cover from Horth Vietnam,prepared to risk having some ships sunk. This would heventure, since the US could continue to sow minesand the Soviets could not prevent it unless theyajor naval and air var in an area where they woulda great disadvantage. We think they would recognize thodangers and would avoidourse.

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In these circumstances, the Soviets would he thrown bach on greatly Increased use of Chinese transportation facilities. This would underline the fact that continuing Soviet support of Vietnam was dependent on Peking's pleasure. Some supplies might be airlifted either from the USSR but the amounts delivered would be small.

If transportation facilities permitted, the Soviets might send Hanoi weapons and equipment of the sorts suggested under Course A. In addition, the range of weapons could include medium Jet bombers, fighter bombers, short-range missiles, and, in an extreme case, MRBMs manned by Soviet crews. Moscow might calculate that these would posehreat to South Vietnam that the US vould have toease-fireolitical bargain to halt the war. But the Soviets, In our judgment, would be more likely to consider that the US vould not desist merely because of the throat posed by such weapons and that their use would provoke even stronger US attacks.

32* The Soviets have held out the possibility of sending volunteers to Morth Vietnam, and the mining program might provide the occasion. They might, for example, send personnel to operate

Soriet furnished equipcent, perhapa even scoe pilots to fly conbat missions. But, In general, ve heve that the Soviets vould stillerious ecr^roctation with tha US InAsia.

33* If the Soviets could or vould do little In the itasediate area, they ail grit consider some action In otherhero the US or Its allies could he put under pressure. Greatly heightened tensions In Koreaossibility,angerous one. Turkey and Iran could be candidates, or the Kiddle East In general.

3*. But the taost likely place vould be Berlin, where US Interests are directly engaged and vulnerable, and where the USSR could be surer of controlling the action. The Soviets might put only minor pressure on access routes, to create an inpresslon of impending crisis and to lead European opinion to blame the US rather than Soviet policy for causing the trouble. We think tbe Soviets vould be unlikely to risk any major crisis. It vould threaten the gains Moscow is seeking at US expense In Europe by pursuing the line of detente. The Soviets could not be sure of now vigorously the US might respond In Berlin, nor could they have any assurance that tha US would choose to make any concessions In Vietnam.

35- There vouldood chance that the Soviets vould at this juncture begin to exert greater effort* to bring about peace. They vould have to weigh the risks of some level of confrontation with the US against their reluctance to put real pressure on Hanoiolitical solution. They would almost certainly urge the course of negotiation more vigorously than they have heretofore. But they would probably not be willing to make Hanoi's acceptance of talks an explicit condition of continued oaterial support. If negotiations did get under way, they would, of course, still bend every effort to obtain terns which gave Hanoi some hope of achieving its aloe eventually.

36. Of one thing only can we be fairly certain: that the USSR would respond to the wining with across the board hostility toward tbe US. They would demonstrate this by interrupting any co-going conversations, such as the discussion ofon-proliferationreeze on strategic weapons. In addition they might Interfere with various exchanges, end delay ratification or isrpleoentotlon of the consular treaty and air agreement. They might even go so far as to abrogate existing agreements, the test ban and the cuter space agreements, though this seems much less likely. Finally, the USSR would probably take the mining Issue to the 'JH where It could expect to receive considerable support.

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China. If the mining proved effective against Soviet shipping, China vould then he in complete control of military and economic deliveries to Horth Vietnam. Peking vould almost certainly seize the opportunity to reduce Soviet political Influence In Hanoi and to discredit the USSR if tbe Soviets took no military action to open the ports. But thereimitnow far the Chinese could go in forcing the Russians out of Vietnam. Hanoi vould almost certainly insist that priority military Items from the USSR he dispatched without Interruption. And the Chinese vould probably have to do so, if they feared that Hanoi vould react by deciding to stop the war. On the other hand Hanoi vould have to recognize that it vas greatly dependent on the political and military support of China and could not expect to continue the war or negotiatetrong position without Peking.

It la possible that the mining of the harbors and the anticipated effect on Horth Vietnam vould cause the Chinese to intervene In the war with combat troops and air power. Both Hanoi and Peking could calculate that the US was determined to apply military pressures until Horth Vietnam capitulated; they might also conclude that this meant an eventual Invasion. Under

such reasoning, the Chinese might decide that Intervention at their own choosing vas preferable to waitingS landing or entering the war In stages.

39. We continue to estimate that China would probably enter the war if Horth Vietnam were Invaded, or if the Hanoi regime appeared about to collapse. But it should be noted: first that the Impending collapse of tbe regime would he an event most difficult to judge in advance, and second, that when and if this moment approached, Hanoi might elect to negotiate with the US rather than be occupied by the Chinese. In any case, we do not believe that the bombing and mining programs would reduce Horth Vietnam to sotate that Peking would unilaterally decide onourse.

ftO. Horth Vietnam. It might te that the weight of US attacks on Horth Vietnam, especially If coupled with political pressure from Moscow, would bring Hanoi to negotiate. But we believe that the critical element in the decision of Horth Vietnam's leaders would be their view of Conxsunist proepectB In the South. They might, at this stage, still have hopes that us willingness to continue could he flapped by Ccemainist successew well-publlclzed battles, ortepped-up campaign of sabotage,

tarrorlBB, and guerrilla varfare. They aright consider that, areaubstantially lover level of logistic support, Ccrsnualst forces In the South could Increase their harassment of US military Installations and their attacks on US civilian personnelthe country, and could disrupt such pacification efforts as the Ravolxrtionary Development program. Our own Judgment Is that Hanoi's leaders vould he likely to ccsrtlnua the struggle, at the very least until they had weighed tha responses, in the US and In the world at large, to the escalation signalled by the mining. Aaa at this stage we do not think that they wouldajor Chinese Intervention.

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COURSE C: Boctlng North Vietnamese Airfields

Ul. Attacks oo the airfields could confront China vlth the question of defending North Vietnam vlth fighters. In fact, the que at loo could be raised earlier. If the North Vietnamese decided toeavy coral taa nt of their fighters against the US bombers. Whenever tbe Issue did arise, the Chinese eight allow North Vietnamese planes and pilots to operate out of China or might Intervene vlth Chinese planes from Chinese bases. These two responses seem unlikely. They wouldigh risk of hot pursuit or direct retaliation against the Chinese bases. An air war over South China is definitely not to Peking's advantage] it is probable that China would not wont to enter such anwithout using its mainround attack. We doubt that the air defense of Vietnam with fighters Is regarded by Peking as so vital as toino-US war.

We would not rule out some variations In the use of Chinese bases and fighters, depending on the status of North Vietnam's airfields. It eight be possible toemi-sanctuary by shuttling Vletnamee fighters and pilots back and forth from China to Vietnam as the airfields were repaired. Or

Chinese fighters and pilots might be deployed Into Borth Vietnam and operate from there. The Chinese might even do this before

the fields were attaclxd in the hope of forestalling such an

attack. Peking might vlev the risks In these kinds of operations as more acceptable.

In any cose, we can be fairly confident in ruling out

SHERMAN KENT Chairman

any significant soviat Intervention In response to attacks on the airfields. The Soviets would probably be willing to resupply Vietnam with fightersesture of support, and even offer some pilots. But they would probably regard this aa essentially futile, once US policy had cab raced attacks on ell of Vietnam's military airfields.

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