SNIE 50-64 SHORT-TERM PROSPECTS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

Created: 2/12/1964

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Central Intelligence Agency

The following inlelligence organizations participated in the preparation of this estimate: The Central 'IrttelVgence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, Defense, the Army, the Navy,r Force, and NSA.

Concurred in by the UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD ononcurring were the Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State; TheDefense Intelligence Agency; the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army; the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (Intelligence j. Department of the Navy; the Assistant Chief of Staff. Intelligence. USAF; and the Director of the National Security Agency. The Atomic Energy Commission Representative to lhe USIB and the Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained, the subject being outside of Iheir jurisdiction,

CLASSIFICATION OF TITIT t* TfFrMIfcttX WHEN USED SEPARATELY

CENTRAL. INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

4

SUBJECT: : SHORT-TERM PROSPECTS IN SOUTHEAST

ASIA

THE PROBLEM

To assess the present state of affairs in South Vietnam and Laoa, its relation to developments elsewhere in Southeast Asia, and the prospects for the next few months.

CONCLUSIONS

Certain signs of new North Vietnamese and Chinese Communist military activities, together with an upsurge of Viet Cong activity in South Vietnam, recent Viet Cong successes there, and recent Communist advances in Laos, raise the question whether thein South Vietnam and Laos may be on the verge of collapse. After carefully reviewing the evidence, we believe:

a. That the situation in South Vietnam is very serious, and prospects uncertain. Even with US assistance approximately

as il is now, we believe that unless therearkedin the effectiveness of the South Vietnamese Government and armed forces. South Vietnam has at beat an even chance of withstanding the insurgency menace during ihe next few weeks or months.

if present trends in Laos are not checked, therecontinued erosion of non-Communist military andthere. The situation may deteriorate rapidly,urn which would further improve the Vietin South Vietnam.

dramatic new Chinese Communist interventionor Laos is unlikely. North Vietnam, however,up its support of the Pathet Lao, and may do soViet Congerhaps with some increase ofmaterial assistance. The Communist hopeVietnam would be to gain sufficient quick victoriesKhanh's new government could bring its fullto bear, to undermine the South Vietnamese will to

resist, and lo induce the US toegotiatedits only feasible option.

d. That developments elsewhere in Southeast Asia, save in Cambodia, have thus far had little impact on those in Vietnam and Laos. However, the outcome of the present war in South Vietnam willerious effect on the future willingness of governments in Southeast Asia to adopt anti-Communist, rather than neutralist, stances.

THE ESTIMATE

1. The situation in South Vietnam has been seriousong time and has undergone additional deterioration in recent months. The Viet Cong forces have exploited dislocations caused by the November and January coups. General Minn's regime was forced to busy itself with needed reassessments of the Government of Vietnam's counterinsurgency program, with new planning, and with extensive hot: sec leaning: the military chain of command was reordered at all levels, virtually every province chief was changed, and so, too, were many district chiefs. Just when these moves were beginning

South Vietnam

to show some promising results, General Khanh upset the scene once more, ilis regime has not been in power long enough towhether it can prosecute the war effort vigorously and effectively.

Z. Meanwhile there hasefinite improvement in the Viet Cong forces1 organization and armament. The Viet Cong have also become increasingly aggressive and are employing somewhat larger units in their attacks. They have improved the techniques and effectiveness of their operations to meet the increased US effort begunn particular they have effectively exploited the weaknesses of the strategic hamlet program. The current high level of Viet Cong military activity is not unprecedented. In the past, however, upsurges of activity have been followed by lulls for resupply, regrouping, and reorientation. This occurred ini3lare-up in the wake of the Minh coup, and we believe that it will occur againndeed the Viet Cong have already announced that there willemporary lull during the Tet (lunar new year) holiday. On the other hand, with their improved capabilities, the Viet Cong may be able to continue intensified activity for considerably longer than before. They would be particularly likely to do so if they

came to believe that their efforts were significantly reducing the moralewill ofopponents, ajor push would lead rapidly to outstanding political or psychological successes.

3. o central government has been in effective control of all South Vietnam's territory. During the past decade, the Viet Cong have bad considerable success in intimidating or gaining support among the South Vietnamese peasantry, and the people feel little sense of identification with Saigon authority. Thus any Saigon regime will find itself facedifficult task. It is clear that the future depends very heavily on General Khanh's ability to bring his country's considerable assets to bear, and to begin registering visible military and political progress. He hashort period of grace in which to do so, if he is to forestall an upsurge in war-weariness and defeatist sentiment. Any further Saigon coups would Seriously prejudice realistic hope of containing the Viet Cong insurgency, Moreover, the government's position would be damagedey unit or urea commander should switch Sides orersonal accommodation with the Viet Cong. The situation in South Vietnam is very serious, and prospects uncertain. Even with US assistance approximately as it is now, we believe that, unless therearked

improvement in the-effectiveness of the South Vietnameseand armed forces. South Vietnam has at best an even chance of withstanding the insurgency menace during the next few weeks or months,

can expect increased neutralist talk inside andVietnam. Much of this will be inspired by Frenchthrough official, commercial, and private channels, toVietnamese military leaders to the view that furtheris foolhardy. Some of these leaders may urge aon Khanh, or attempt to overthrow him, but we doubtwould succeed, or that neutralist sentiment would have aeffect upon the morale of military units or of thegovernmentnless either the Viet Cong shoulda considerable number of dramatic and major victories,Saigon regime should come to believe that thereessening

of US determination toommunist takeover.

Laos

has been an increase of direct Northin recent Communist Pathet Lao military activities,

aad there ara indication* that such participation will continue. The fact that no aharp US reaction has yet occurred to recent Communist advances may have emboldened Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese leaders. Both the neutralist and rightist political camps in Laosto fragment, the chances of coupB against Premier Souvanna Phouma are on the rise, and his government's Influence in the countryside continues to shrink. If present trends in Laos arc not checked, there will be further erosion of the non-Communist military and political position there. The Laos situation may deteriorate rapidly, and it couldurn which would further improve the Vict Cong position in South Vietnam.

Developments^ Elsewhere in Southeast Asia

6. There are indications of increased Chinese Communist material aupport to Hanoi, and of some new Chinese Communist militaryouthern China, but we do not interpret these as presaging any dramatic new Chinese Communist intervention in Laos or Vietnam within the near future. The Franco-Chinese rapprocheme and French championing of neutralization are having an impact in Southeast Asian capitals, as well as complicating the situation in

Vietnam. Sihanouk's maneuvers, too, considerably affect the major shows in Vietnam and Laos. He will continue to press for anguarantee of his country's neutrality, and will probably make his way to closer relations with Hanoi and Peiping. US influence with him, already slight, will accordingly lessen.

7. Developments elsewhere in Southeast Asia will continue to have little direct effect on events in Vietnam and Laos. This is not to say that these developments are not important for the US, especially those deriving from Sukarno's aggressiveness. Post-Sarit politics in Thailand, fairly stable thug far, may revert to coup/counter-coup patterns before very long, but we see no one among the probable contenders for power who would be likely toecisivein Thailand's external orientation, provided that Bangkok remains confident of US support and US determination to defend its allies in Southeast Asia. Chronic instability remains the order of the day in Burma; but, aside from some inclination on the part of Rangoon not to cross Peiping's will, Burmese developments do not seem likely to have much impact beyond Burma's own frontiers.

Significance for the US

8. Turbulence has been endemic in Southeast Asia since the end of World War II. There will be numerous further crises in the area, many of them the product of causes other than Communist scheming. Nevertheless, the course of developments will depend, in important measure, on US actions concerning South Vietnam and on what local Asian leaders conceive US policy there to be. The struggle for South Vietnam willest, crucial for much ofAsia, of US ability and will to preserve and protect anti-CommuniBt regimes in the area and. hence, of the feasibility of going along with the US response to Communist pressures rather than of opting for some other course such as an attempt to negotiate livable settlements with the Communists. If the US were to indicate interest inettlement in South Vietnam, the idea ofwith Communist forces in the area would spread.

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