probable communist reactions to certain possible us/gvn courses of actions
NOTE: Tim Is an estimate as approved by Ihe United State! Ihtellwence Board. No JurLhor distribution will rnade.
Submitted by the DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE
The (allowing intelligence organisations participated inof this estimate: The Central Intelligencethe intelligence organizations of the DepartmentsDefense, " '"
in by the
UNHID STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD
4 Concurring were the Director of Intelligence and Research, Department nf State; the Director. Defense Intelligence Agency: and the Director of the Sattottal Security Agency- The Atomic Energy Commissionto the USUI and the Assistant Director, Federal llureau of Investigation, abstained, the subject being outside of their jurisdiction.
subject: ': probable ccja-tonist reactions to certain possible us/gvn
courses of action
thection addressed inave been given to thecoinraiinity 'or the purpose of this estimate and are not meant to represent the full range of options open to the us. it should also be noted that tho paper is confined to consideration of communist reactions and does not discuss possible reactions in the rest of the world..
a. background: the communist vtew of the situation th TBWCHIM.
he communist powers most directlycrth vietnam and communist china, undoubtedly feel that present trends in south vietnam arc much in their favor- they anticipateolitical vacuum is forming which they
can probably soon fillneutralist" coalition government dominated by
pro-CommiiniRt elements. Theyemporary stalemate in Laos, but in their
view thisecondary theater in which trends will become more favorable for them as soon as South Vietnam falls their way; in the meantime their major concern in Laos is to Iteep the corridor and the areas bordering North Vietnam and China in Communist hands-
2. For these reasons, they are willing for the time being to accept the Laos situation about as it is- Both there and in South Vietnam they wish to avoid actions which might risk altering the present apparently favorable course of their campaign to undermine the govemmont of South Vietnam (GVN). While they will seek, to exploit and encourage the deteriorating situation in Saigon, they probably will avoid actions that would in their view unduly increase the chancesajor US response against North Vietnam (DRV) or Communist China. We are almost certain that both Hanoi and Peiping are anxious not to become Involved in the kind of war in which the great weight of superior US weaponry could be brought against then. Ever, if Hanoi and Peiping estimated that the US would notnuclear weapons against them, they could not be sure of this- As of the present, however, both Hanoi and Peiping appear willing to persist in support of the Viet Cong, even to the extent of risking limited US retaliation against North Vietnam, probably on the calculation that victory is near in the South and that they could through political counteraction prevent prolonged or expanded US attacks in the North.
3- The limited. US response to the Tonkin Gulf incidentugust, followed by assurances that US intentions were specifically limited, probably lessened Communist fear of an early major move by the US to bring the war to the North. On the otheratural caution pluc their ideological bias makes the Ccomunists highly suspicious of tho US. Both Hanoi and. Peiping havo indicated serious concern over the possibility that the US will eventually carry the war to the Northa danger which they probably think becomes more likely as thein the South deterioratesand both have taken defensive measures to meet this contingency.
h. In the face of new US pressures against the DRV, further actions by Hanoi and Peiping would be basedonsiderable extent on their estimate of UShether the US was actually determined to increase its pressures as necessary. Their estimates on this point are probably uncertain, but we believe that fear of provoking severe measures by tho US would load them to temper their responsesood deal of caution.
5> On the other hand, it is possible that at anytime Hanoi and Peiping would come to believe that the situation in South Vietnam had become so fragile that an all-out Viet Cong effort, aided by increased infiltration of personnel, would topple the Bnti-Caranur-iBt GVN before the US could take any major action against the North. We believe that the Communists are not likely to attempt this in tho immediate future because they are not yet certain enough of their
capability touick decision by such means and probably consider the risks of major US retaliation too groat. Whether or not they iroke cuch on all out effort, however, they will continue to work for the establishment of what has been their longstanding goaleutralist coalition government dominated by Communists which would destroy tho basis of tho US position.
6. The USSR is probably uneasy about tho situation in Indochina for several reasons, the most importantealization that it might escalate to general war- If tensions ir-creaaed, we believe that the Soviet interest would be to contain orrisis*
B. SPECIFIC COURSES AKD RESPONSES
Category I: Resumption of DeSoto patrolo with or without maritime
7. We do not believe that the North Vietnamese would initiate attacks on DeSoto patrol destroyerslose approach to shore (at theenetration of thomile limit) or apparent relationshipfcA operation led thea to believe the destroyers were associated with an attack. However, Hanoi's desire to keep track of these vessels couldlead to new incidents.
6. If for some reason tho DRV did go after the US destroyers and the US retaliated with air strikes, subsequent Communist reactions would depend at Inft in part upon the severity of tho strikes. If the strikes wero confinod
j -nTI flT T ^
toietnam and to targets associated with the Cconunist attacks, ao were those ofugust, Cctrsjnist reaction vould probably be limited to (a) DRV self-defense vith fighters, anti-aircraft, and small arms, (b) political maneuvers and pri'i>wKiutoS by CoFiaimlst elementc throughout tbe vorld, (c) additional Communist Chlneae logistic support to tho DRV, including possibly theof more aircraft Into Horth Vietnam.
If the US retaliatory strikes hit critical DRV targets not directly associated vith the provocation, but vere prompt and of short duration, we believe the DHV response would be about as described in para. 8. If, on the other hand, US attacks on nonasecciatod targets were heavier and sustained, then we believe the reactions of Hanoi and Peiping vould be about as described In
Wc think it most unlikely that the Chinese Cccrnunlats wouldbecome involved with DeSoto patrols; but they could become Inadvertently involved In an action arisingRV-US patrol engagement - If bo, and if the US retaliation was confined to Chinese Communist targets directly associated with the engagement, the Cowaunlst military response would again probably be limited to defensive action. It mist be noted, however, that an attack by the US againct bases in Communist China, whether provoked unintentionally or deliberately by tho Chinese, wouldew factor in the Southeast Asianirect confrontation of US-Chinese forces. In such case, the
Chinese Communists night feel obligated toore direct rcle In the US/URV conflict. On the international diplomatic front widespread fearajorwar would, enable the Communists to stir up substantial pressures against the US.
Category II: Resumption of 3kA operations, pai-ticularly maritime operations.
would probably evoke nothing more than increasedmproved detection and defenseand propaganda. We dothat the DRV would launch strikesA bases or relatedthis would Involve tooikelihood of direct conflict withonsequent risk of further escalation.
Category HI: Air action and/or ground operations against infiltration-associated targets in the Lao panhandle.
response to US/OVH air action against thetargets in the panlianrlle would probably be confined ton passive and AAA defense in the area (b) political andand (c) Vlat Cong sabotage and ground raids directed againstair bases. We do not believe that they would launch air attacks onbases, because of their very limited capabilities and the fear ofretaliation on their own bases.
13. The reaction to GVN or US/GVN ground action against the panhandle infiltration route would depend largely upon the magnitude and duration of the action. At tlie lower end of themall hit-and-run raidimited objective would, probably evoke little more than an ettcmpt to improve PL/DRV capabilities for early detection and ambush of similar future efforts. On the other hand, actionsonsiderable dietance which threatened PL/DRV use of infiltration routes and basee would probably draw additional Communist forces into the area. We believe it unlikely that the DRV would Initiate any large-scale aggression in Laos or GVN, although some additions to orof PAVN forces in Laos might occur. It is also possible that thewould counter by seizing such vulnerable targets in southern Laos as Attnpeu and Saravane.
Catogory IV: ystematic pattern of gradually intensifying US/OVN
attacks against targets in the DRV itself, including those associated with infiltration routes and military and economic targets. These attacks on the DRV would not include the use of nuclear weapons or US ground forces in organized US ccoibat units. This program would be combined with directly comrauni-cated assurances that US objectives were confined tooutsido Communist support and guidance of tho Viet Cong and. Pathet Lao insurrections.
1^. This category corresponds closely to the latter stages of the courses (orhich formed the basis for, "Probableof Certain US Actions with Respect to Vietnem anaated Since tho publication of that SNIE the GVN position in South Viotnam has
deteriorated, the Tonkin Gulf incidents have occurred, and Ccomuinist China has furnished North Vietnam with additional support. In addition, divisions within the Communist eorap have Increased.
15. Vilth the initial phase of US attacks on targets within the DRV which were not directly connected, withanoi and Peiping would probably eor.clu.de that the US had embarkedystematic pattern of attacks on DRV military-rolsted targets. At this point we believe they would probably attempt to dissuade the USixture of moves, including some apparent concessions to US wishes, efforts to mobilize International opinion against the US, and actions designed to underline Communist determination. Hanoi wouia probably direct the Viet Cong -io launch no dramatic new attacks and might direct them to reduce temporarily the tempo and size of their attacks. To mobilise international pressure against the US, Communist and leftist propaganda facilities would attack US "war madness" and stress the danger that US actions might bring on World War IH. Hanoi vould probably make an all out propaganda and diplomatic drive for negotiations end, to this ond, there might be private hints of some willingness to accommodate US/GVN views. Hanoi and Peiping would increase their threats of counteractions and both would probably undertake force deployments designed to add to the credibility of these threats, though we doubt that the DRV would attempt any overt Invasion of Lacs cr South Vietnam. Hanoi would certainly appeal for Chinese Communist defensive assistance, (radars,artillery, additional combat aircraft, patrol craft, and technical
personnel) widen Peiping would. probably supply. Vfe doubt that Hanoi would request Chinese Ccmeiunist ground troops at this juncture. However, Hanoi would exploit offers of Chinesend, to this end, ctl^it publicize arrivals of Chinese advisors. Ke.nol would aloo appeal to the Soviets. The USSR would make propaganda and political efforts on bciialf of the MtV, and perhaps consent to furnish eome military equipment, but would almost certainly* take steps to insure that Hanoi and Peiping were kept aware of the limits of Soviet support,
16. If, despite Communist efforts, the US attacks continued, Hanoi's leaders would have to ask themselves whether it was not better to suspend their support cf Viet Cong military action rather than suffer the destruction of their iM,lor military facilities and the industrial sector cf their economy* In the belief that tho tide has set almost irreversibly in their favor in South Vietnam, they might calculate that tho Viet Ceng could stop its military attacks for the time being and renew the insurrection successfullyater date. Their judgment in this matter might be reinforced by the Chinese Communist concern over bee.om.ing involvedonflict with US air and naval power. The DRVeasonable price to pay iu order to reduce the likelihood of damaging US attacks onRV. They would then pressegotiatedin the South and try to promote an international conference to pursue their ends. However, they would not bo prepared to make any meaningfulsuch os agreeing to effective international inspection of infiltration routes.
17- On the other hand,eat of wills with the US, the Comwnists might embarkold course, feeling that the prize to be won by all-out attacks on South Vietnam outweighed any damage to be suffered from continued US attacks on the DHV. They night feel that any benefits to bo gained by buying tine would be more than offsetoss of momentumime when victory appeared near,oss of face with the VC, and by the consequent bolstering of US/GVH morale. Hanoi would have in mind that concessions under such circumstances might only invite the US to resume strikes upon any renewal of Vict Cong military activity. In this case the DRV would carry on the fight and proceed to Bend its own armed forcesarge scolo to Laos and. South Vietnam. Hanoi might assume that the US would be unwilling toajor ground war, or that if it was, it could ultimately be defeated by the methods which were successful against the French.
18. ituation involving so many levels of possible escalation we cannotonfidont judgment as to which course the DHV leaders would choose-On balance, we incline to the view that they would chooso the conservative course outlined inargely on the grounds that they would, consider that they were not giving up much moreittle time in return for avoiding great physical damage to their country and. escaping the risk of uncontrollable further
escalation. There is substantial danger, however, that tho DRV Bight choose theaggressive course discussed in*
19- If the DRV should choose tho more aggressive course, the question of Communist Chinese intervention would arise. At this stage, Peiping would probably make its threats of intervention stronger und more specific. If it hod not already uono ao, it would almost certainly deploy large forces to areas near Vietnam and Loos. Peiping night commit units of its air force to defensive action over Horth Vietnam at this point, but in view of the magnitude of US air and naval superiority we doubt that Peiping would do so. However, Hanoi and Peiping vould probably introduce limited numbers of Chinese Communist ground forces asoth to prepare for further escalation and to mako clear Peiping's ccrnmltmcnt to assist the North Vietnamese. It is also possible, though unlikely, that unacknowledged Chinese Communist units vould make doop incursions into Laos and perhaps even into Thailand and Burma.
20. be believe that Ccaramlat China would be very reluctant to becaae directly involved in the fighting in Indochina lest this be taken by theause far major retaliation against the Chinese mainland. In our view, the Chinoso Conmuniste would not beo engage openly vith US forces unless they felt it was neeossary in order to prevent destruction of the Communist regime
* The blro^cr of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, believes that tbe DRV would find the arguments in paragraphore perouaolvo end would choose that course, considering that at this Juncture it had optimum provocation as veil as international acceptance for overt retaliation In South Vietnam.
In Berth Vletnnn. Ve therefore believe there vould not be high risk of the introduction of large-scale Chinese ground force corabat unite unless major US/QVH ground units lind moved to occupy areai* of the DRV or Communist-held territory in northern taoe, or possibly, the Chinese had eccniitted their air and had subse-cruently suffered attacks on CCAF besee in China. Hevertheloss, there ishance that Peiping might oo intervene either for reasons that seen irrational to us ot because it miscalculated the objectives of US movos in the area.china's capability forround war in adjacent areas of southeast Asia io formidable.
As the escalation progressed, the USSR would bo increasingly concerned to bring an end to the crisis. It would probably sake plain to Hanoi and Peiping that they could look for no substantial Soviet support. The Soviets would seek to augment international pressures on tlie U3 to bring it to the conference table. To this end they night offer hints of intervention, but we believe that they vould refrain from, Military actions in the area and vould not take the occasion torisis with the US elsewhere.
Even if US actions along the lince described above in Category IV clearly succeeded in halting outside support for the Viet Cong effort, theacccnpliahnent vould notolution to the larger problem of South Vietnam, but rather the buying of time ir. which to continue US efforts toiable reeime in the South and to deal with indigenous Viet Cong Insurgency.