30. Intelligence Memorandum1

OCI No. 0490/66


Attached is a brief assessment of Communist views of the present state of the conflict in Vietnam. Attached also are compilations of selected Communist statements on the current US diplomatic campaign and the lull in bombing North Vietnam.2



North Vietnam

The halt in US air strikes on North Vietnam, coupled with intensive US efforts to elicit a positive response from Hanoi on negotiating an end to the war, have thus far produced only biting denunciations of US motives by the North Vietnamese and a stiffening of previously stated North Vietnamese demands. Hanoiʼs failure to show interest in discussions with the US on any but its own terms probably stems largely from its belief that the military situation in South Vietnam is still in its favor. Based on this belief, the North Vietnamese apparently feel that ultimately the US will be forced to accept Communist demands.

The North Vietnamese apparently see the current standdown in US air attacks mainly as a welcome opportunity to repair bomb damage and to step up the shipment of supplies to depots which support Communist operations in South Vietnam. Hanoi probably hopes that by delaying an official response to the US peace overtures it can prolong the lull in air strikes.

The North Vietnamese public response to the US “peace offensive” also appears to be calculated to reassure the Chinese Communists and [Page 93] the Viet Cong of Hanoiʼs determination to continue the fight. To this end a series of propaganda statements out of Hanoi during the past three weeks have set forth three “actual deeds” which the US must perform to “prove” its acceptance of North Vietnamʼs “four points.” These deeds are: unconditional cessation of air strikes on North Vietnam, unconditional withdrawal of US forces from South Vietnam, and US recognition of the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NFLSV) as the representative of the South Vietnamese people. In its propaganda statements, Hanoi has come closer than ever before to suggesting that these “actual deeds” are preconditions for negotiations.

Hanoi is doubtless also concerned over the success of the US peace effort in convincing world opinion of US willingness to seek a quick and reasonable end to the war. To counter this, Hanoi has attempted to impugn US motives. A constant stream of propaganda since the standdown in air strikes began has stressed the theme that the bombing lull and the “peace offensive” are only a “cover up” for further US escalation of the war.


The National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam has largely ignored the US moves. In its limited response, it has echoed Hanoiʼs attacks on the US peace effort, characterizing it as a “trick” designed to cover up further escalation of the war. Front spokesmen have defiantly reaffirmed the determination of the Viet Cong to continue fighting. The Front central committee has voiced its full support for Hanoiʼs position on the US peace moves.

Communist China

Peking has responded to the US peace campaign and suspension of bombing with a mounting propaganda attack which suggests that the Chinese are uneasy about the possibility that their position is being undercut in the non-aligned world—and perhaps also in Hanoi. The Chinese have pumped out a flood of caustic editorials denouncing the US effort as a “peace hoax” designed to prepare for further escalation of the war if the Vietnamese Communists do not knuckle under to US “blackmail.” Hanoi is repeatedly urged to continue the fight until victory, and to reject any negotiated settlement except on Communist terms.

This public position which is almost certainly being conveyed privately to Hanoi, reflects Pekingʼs view that if the Communists press on resolutely, the war in Vietnam can only end in victory. Such a victory would take the Chinese a long way toward their ultimate goal of driving the US out of Asia, and at the same time strike a heavy blow at Moscow—Pekingʼs other principal enemy—by validating Maoʼs formula for world revolution through “peopleʼs war.”

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Moscow has assumed a notably cautious attitude with regard to the US “peace offensive.” Soviet party secretary Shelepinʼs speeches during his recent visit to Hanoi provide a good illustration of Soviet reserve on this point. Despite the North Vietnamese leadersʼ repeated and virulent denunciation of Washingtonʼs diplomatic efforts as “deceitful,” Shelepin let pass the opportunity to echo this view. He did point out, however, in keeping with standard Soviet propaganda treatment, that the “so-called peace initiative” coincides with a continued US buildup in South Vietnam.

If, as seems likely, Shelepin encouraged the North Vietnamese to give more serious consideration to recent US moves toward a political solution, he was apparently unable to persuade them to modify their tactics. The lack of any reference in the communique following Shelepinʼs visit to recent US probes is a sign that the two parties were unable to achieve a consensus or even a compromise.

Soviet party chief Brezhnev, at a 15 January rally in Ulan Bator, expressed doubt over Washingtonʼs “sincerity” and maintained that if the US really wanted to end the war in Vietnam, it need only agree to the “just demands” of the Vietnamese people.

Soviet propaganda has generally avoided any extensive commentary on US diplomatic efforts, but has accompanied factual reportage of the travels of US envoys with a moderate amount of routine remarks alleging they were “cover” for further “aggression.” In reporting North Vietnamese statements on the US diplomatic offensive and the bombing standdown, Moscow has toned down Hanoiʼs particularly abusive commentary. Privately, Soviet leaders have adopted a generally non-committal stance on US peace initiatives, avoiding the sharp, negative reaction Moscow has expressed over such moves in the past.

While reacting with caution and reserve to the “peace offensive,” the Soviet leaders apparently have not been overly optimistic regarding its chances for success. Soviet president Podgorny is reported to have told the French ambassador on 30 December that he was skeptical that current US diplomatic efforts would induce Hanoi to negotiate.

  1. Source: Department of State, Ball Files: Lot 74 D 272, Viet-Nam—Intelligence Estimates. Secret; No Foreign Dissem; Background Use Only. Prepared by the Office of Current Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency. A copy is also in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, vol. XLV.
  2. Attached but not printed.