Created: 4/28/1965

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onotKurrmg were the Director ofIntelligence and Research, Department of State; the Director, Defense Intelligence Agency; and the Director of Iheecurity Agency. The Atomic Energy Commissionto the'USW and the Assistant to the Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained, the subject being outside of their jurisdiction.






To eatlaate likely Communist, particularly Soviet and Chinese, reactions to non-nuclear air strikes by tha US against China.


For the purpose of this estimate, we haveumber of aasuraptlons about US air strikes and Communist reactions in order to consider several different situations. In Part I, wease in which the initial US stride was In response to direct and overt attacks ty Chinese fighterfree Chinese bases, amatnst US forces bombing in the DRV. In addition, we assure that the first US strike vould be against tbe fighter base or baseswhich the Chinese attacks were launched and that the US objective

Note: Tlie Judgments in this estimate are based on current evidence and the situation as ofpril and could be modified by changing circunctances.

was, aad was stated, to be, lisilted to making tbe Chinese cease their attacks.stimates Communist reactions to this initial exchange, and to similarly limited OS responses to further Chinese air attacks.

In Part II, wo assume that the Chinese attacks continue, and that OS strikes are expanded to include other targets of military significance in South China, the stated OS objective remaining the same.

In Part III, we consider Communist reaction toir strikes expanded to include hundreds of targets of major military significance throughout China. Ve assume that OS objectives at this point would have expanded beyond their original scope.



1. The policies and tactics of the Communist powers enfaredietnamese crisis have settledairly definite pattern. It appears that the DRV; with strong Chinese encouragement. Is determined for the present to ride out the US bombardment. Both the DRV and Ccwrunlst China have hardened their attitudes toward negotiations, without categorically excluding the possibility under all conditions. They apparently believe

that the US attacks are intended toettlement on US terns. They apparently calculate that the DRV can afford further punishment and that, in the meantime, US determination to peraist will weaken because ofDRV air defense capabilities, the threatroader conflict, and the pressure of international and US domestic opinion. Moreover, they consider that the tide is running in their favor in the South. Hence, as thenow stands, the Chinese probably see no need for action which would involve substantial risk of precipitating US military attacks upon Iheir territory.

?. By contrast, the Soviets probably have had substantial doubts that the situation can be controllod, ond have indicated their preference for negotiations. Hanoi has thus far rejected this option. esult the Soviets areuandary. They are committed to material andsupport for the DRV but have not yet demonstrated an ability to influence overall strategy. ommon interest in supporting the DRV, relations between the USSR ond China have again worsened. Tha Chinese are working to prevent tbe growth of Soviet influence over the conduct of the Vietnamese conflict, Yet they ara at the sasie time chailenplng the Soviets with increasing stridency to prove their revolutionary credentials by committing the USSR to an implacable struggle against the US in Asia.


Chinese Reactions

3. The Chinese air attackS bombing mission in tbe DHV might be the start of an all-out Ccomnunlst offensive to drive the US out of Indochina. If so, its nature would soon become apparent, and limited US retaliation would not alter the Chinese course.

It. On the other hand, the Chinese attack might beingle episode, intended, to test whether the US re?ardea Chinaanctuary* or to servearning of the risk of further US bombings in the DRV. In either of these cases, Peiping might pause after the Initial OS response, to weigh OS policy and to generate various pressures on the US, trying to exploit the dangerous implications of the Incident.

5- However, we do not believe that the Chinese would take so clearlytep as an overt attack on OS bombing missions, only to stopingle US retaliation. They would probably haveigh risk of retaliation and would have decidedeneral strategy to cope with US strikes against China and to prosecute the war in South Vietnam in these new circumstances. Indeed, their decision to intervene with an air attack probably would have been intended to shore up the DRV and Intimidate the US. If the limited and retaliatory nature of the

initial US strike was made fully clear to the Chinese, they would understand that by ceasing any further efforts to Interfere In US air strikes against North Vietnam they could avoid further attacks upon Chinese territory. they would certainly also realize that, having once engaged US planes over North Vietnam, it would be difficult for them to desist because Chinese territory had been hit, since this would cast doubt on their whole position of willingness to come to Hanoi's defease. Ve think that the Initial US retaliatory attack would not cause the Chinese to discontinue their air attacks against the type of US bombings of North Vietnamese targets that had given rise to the initial encounter.

6. Assuming that tbe Chinese attacks did continue and that the US continued to retaliate with strikes limited to Chinese fighter bases, the Chinese would try to defend themselves against these strikes and would put the US under various new pressures to halt all bombings. They might put out feelers for negotiations, but without Beating US terms. At tbe same time, they would try by new threats and further military deployments to Impress the US with their readinessarge-scale war. Because we think they would still be seeking to avoid further escalation during this initial phase, we think the chances are less than even that they would attack US carriers or operational bases.

important reason for estimating this kind of response,an immediate expansion of the direct US-Chinese conflict. Is theapparent conviction that the US can be confronted and defeatedAsia by proper revolutionary tactics without bringing cn a The main Communist reaction wouldharp intensification ofIn South Vietnam. Indeed, under certain circumstances, theair attacks might have been part of an agreement with Hanoi to As part of this lnteneiflcatlon, Communist Infiltration intowould be Increased, and It would probably include more DRVand, if required, some Chlneae personnel. The objective would be

to gain effective control over South Vietnam and to destroy the political basis of tbe US position there.

an air war with the USostfor the Chinese. We think it unlikely that they would continuevery long before deciding to take whatever political steps theynecessary to halt the conflict, or to shift to their mosta ground offensive. Thus in the successive phases of US airwe are considering here, the Chinese would be examining these We cannot bo sure how long they would accept US bombingsone of these alternatives. It vould depend greatly on howand the DRV weighed tba current prospects for victory in thethe effectiveness of US strikes In both China and north Vietnam.

9- In considering further alary moves, the Chinese might fear that the US attacks had Involved Chinese prestige and security to the point where failure toere decisive response vould appearumiliating retreat. They might also calculate that the US, if facedround offensive which threatened tbe destruction of its entire position In Indochina, vould not carry throughrogram of extended boohing. Or they might believe that even large-scale US air attacks would not Irreparably damage their nation. Hence they might conclude that the gains available In Southeast Asia Justified tbe risks involved.

10. On the other hand, they might calculate these sane factors and reach the opposite conclusion. They might rate US determination aa high, particularly alnce they probably would not regard the US as acutelyof major military reactions from the USSR. How that China haa acquired facilities for the production of advanced weapons systems. It may be much more concerned than before about their vulnerability to air attack. And the Chinese might believe that, if confrontedassive ground invasion of Indochina, the US might quickly move to the use of nuclearagainst China itaelf. Furthermore, they might Judge that US bombings had already reduced or would aooo significantly reduce Chinese capabilities for an Invasion aouthvard. Finally, they might believe that US bomblnga of China and the DRV could be halted, at least temporarily, by various political steps which would slow the pace of the Viet Cong Insurgency, but notits ultimate success.

indicated above, we think that, if the initial chinesewas not part of an all-out offensive, the first uswould not produce an immediate chinese choice between as us strikes againat fighter bases in south chinathe pressures on the chinese to makehoice wouldit is impossible to estimate the exact scale ofhinese decision, we think it likely that peipingits choice some time before its capabilities in south china for

supporting air action bad been completely destroyed.

is an almost even chance that the chinese choice wouldbreak off the air battle and make political moves designed tous from continuing its bombings of the drv. on balance, however,it somewhat more likely that they wouldajor adlitarythe continuation or expansion of us strikes against china.i/ theand timing of military moves couia vary greatly. if theyalready done so, chinese communist forces would probably movevietnam. chinese or additional drv forces would probably movelaos. tbe drv armed forces, with chinese support, would probably

X/ the director of intelligence ana research, department of state, believes that the chinese are much more likely toilitary response to the us bombings, as described in the latter part of this paragraph, than to seek to dissuade the us solely through political moves. moreover, he believes thatesponse will come, if not immediately after tbe initial us retaliatory strike, very soon after any continuation of such retaliatory strikes.

open an offensive against south vietnam. thailand would be threatened, especially if lta bases were used in air attacks against china. such military moves as these might be accompanied by some probing for indeed, peiping might think that, faced with this new stage in tbe war, the us woulday to bring hostilitieslose.

13- chinese calculations in ths initial stage of us bombings would not be greatly affected by the soviet position, since the chinese probably would not be counting on soviet support in southeast asia. they would almost certainly demand that the sorletb confront tho us with the threat of military intervention. peiping would probably call on tbe soviets for advanced equipment. the chinese would hope either to gain some measure of soviet support and seriouslyu8sb relations or, if the soviets hesitated to provide support, to destroy moscow's standing among other communists and the afro-asians.

Ik. us strikes against chinese territory would greatly alarm large segments of world opinion, and the various communist countries involved in the crisis would of course strenuously exploit these feelings. the more chance they saw of inhibiting the us in this fashion, the less they would be prepared to change their course.

For their part, the Soviet leaders vould be greatly apprehensivear between China and the US night expand to involve then. Their principal aim would be to halt the escalation, and they would probably hope to have more influence on the US than on China. We would expect Soviet threats and warnings, along with overturesease-fire or negotiations. On the one hand, they would try to impress the US that the USSR would lave no choice but to support its Communist ally. On the other hand, Moscow would endeavor to restrain the Chinese by privately indicating to then that they could not count on the USSR to use its own forces or nuclear power to support China's war In Southeast Asia.

These US attacks would point up the fundamental arguments between the USSR and China about strategy and tactics in confronting the US and would sharpen the Soviet dilemma. Nevertheless, it Is likely that the Soviets would agree to supply China with military equipmenttrategically defensive character, including air defense missiles and advanced fighters. Though they could not afford the political cost

ofhinese request, they would probably bargain on types and quantities of aid and on terms, and would place some politicalon their assistance,reater voice in the conduct of Communist policy in Southeast Asia. The Soviets would probably offer

personnel for technical assistance and to man the advanced equipment, perhaps In the guise of "volunteers" or without any formal acknowledgement of their participation.

17. It Is possible that tbe Soviets would calculate that, by putting some Important US or Western interest in Jeopardy elsewhere in the world, they could force the US to pause or reverse its course in Vietnam and China. In general, the Soviets have avoided such tactics in past crises, evidently fearing that this sort of multiplication of tensions might engender In theenseeneral showdown. We think that thin attitude will continue to govern Soviet policy, although we are somewhat less certain that the new Soviet lenders will adhere to this pattern. In any case. It Is very unlikely that the USSR would take military action outside Southeast Asia.

DRV Rcnctiono

Id. Assuming that US attacks against the DRV were growing, Hanoi might believe that its fate was becoming subordinate to the larger struggle, and this nightource of difference between the DRV and China. On the other hand, the DRV would be encouraged by the Increased Chinese commitment. In any case, ve do not believe that the differences between Peiping and Hanoi would be such as to impair the present degree ofin the war effort.


Chineae Reactions

Assuming that the US expanded its air strikes to Include other military targets in South China/ this action would almost certainlyew decision by Peiping. As indicated above, we think it likely that tbe Chinese and the DRV would already have elected to escalate the war by various military moves,HV offensive against the South- If this had not yet occurred, then the first few US strikes at other military targets in South China would probably bring on such an attack.

Further, the expansion of US bombings would probably convince the Chinese that attacks on northern China would soon follow. If they had not yet attacked US carriers or operational bases, they woulddo so. If Chinese troops had not yet moved into Bortb Vietnam or Laos, they would probably do so. It is possible also that regular Chinese forces would move into South Vietnam, and Chinese or DRV forces might push beyond the northern provinces of Laos.

We do not believe that the Chinese would try to counter expanded US bombing actions by initiating large-scale fighting outside Southeast Asia. Tension would probably rise In the Taiwan Strait, but the Chinese would probably not at this point Initiate action against Taiwan unless

faced with an invasion attempt by Chinese Nationalist forces or attacks on China from Taiwan bases. Koreapecial case. ecent interview, Hao stated that if an East Asian war involved North Korea, the Soviets would almost certainly have to get involved. If Indeed Mao believes this. It is possible that, under continued and damaging US attacks, Peiping would try to renew the war In Koreaeans of bringing the USSR into the conflict. But even if the Chinese wished to reopen hostilities io Korea, under the circumstances considered here North Korea would probably,seek to dissuade them. If hostilities nevertheless began, we believe that the USSR could not long remain aloof. Moscow would probably limit its active participation, however, to the provision of materiel and of special units employing advanced conventional equipment such as SANs.

Soviet Reactions

22. The expansion of US air attacks to other military targets in South China would provoke an atmosphere of general world crisis and put the USSR under increasing pressure. However, we do not believe that these attacks would unite Moscow and Peipingolid alliance. In fact, we believe that the Soviet leaders might derive some satisfaction from the feeling that the error of the Chinese line was being demonstrated to the world at large. They would nevertheless alsotrong desire to deter the US and an urgent necessity to display solidarityocialist

ally under attack. Accordingly, the Soviets would respond to thiswith the most intense kind of propaganda, and possibly somedesigned to convince the OS that its actions were Jeopardizingrules which had governed the use of military force in previousSoviet actions would probably still be measured. If they had notso, the Soviets would probably provide supplies and equipment,air defense equipment, including SAHs and fighter aircraft, andassociated

23. The Soviets would have to consider again the advisability of generating crises elsewhere intended to press the US to desist. We believe that, as the OS-Chinese conflict expanded, the inhibitions on this tactic would rise rapidly. In particular, we think it unlikely that the USSR would openly undertake direct engagement with US forces, so long as it saw nc direct threat to Soviet territory or to the existenceommunist regime in China.


2k, We have estimated that the continuation and especially the expansion of OS bombing of South China wouldritical decision on the Chinese. But if they had refrained fromecision, we believe

that the first few US attacks against other regions would precipitate the Chinese decision. Ana long before the US air campaign had reached the level of attacks on hundreds of targets of major military significance throughout China, the Chinese would, in our view, have felt compelled either to engage the US In large-scale hostilities or to move openly toward at least temporary conciliation.

US willingness to take the critical step of bombing throughout China would almost certainly cause Peiping to conclude that the US was determined toull-scale war, perhaps Including the eventual use of nuclear weapons. Thus therehance that the Chinese, if they hadhoice to this point, would now decide that it was necessary to halt the conflict and shiftime to political tactics.

We believe, however, that they would probably respondombination of major military moves in Southeast Asia, as outlined in paragraphs Further, since the US would have alreadyeadiness to bomb North China, Peiping would probably Judgeeneral showdown had arrived and vould engage the US with all the forces at its disposal.

Soviet Reactions

27* The USSR would at this level of crisis come under extraordinary pressure. It would have to consider on the one hand the possibility that

tho existenceommunist regime in China was in jeopardy, and on ths other the danger of general nuclear war. Peiping would be vigorously insisting that Moscow come to Its defense and In some way bring US attacksalt. In these circumstances, the USSR would almost certainlyonalderable effort, on an emergency basis, to sustain Chinese warcapabilities. At tbe same time, the USSR would alsoaximum effort to stop the war through political action, particularly by mobilizing world opinion against the US and persuading China to negotiate.


28. Beyond this, so much would depend upon the circumstances in which the crisis had developed that Soviet reaction cannot be anticipated. The Soviets would probably still believe that tbe US was not bent on attacking the USSR. Hence, we believe that the USSR would not attack US forcesChina, initiate the use of nuclear weapons, or provide them to China. Wa believe that Soviet actions would be calculated to limit the risk to further escalation, but we cannot be sure that Moscow would correctly calculate these risks.

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