125. Intelligence Assessment Prepared in the National Foreign Assessment Center, Central Intelligence Agency1

RP 78–10267C

The Peking–Hanoi–Phnom Penh Triangle

Key Judgments

The current Sino-Vietnamese quarrel over Hanoi’s treatment of the ethnic Chinese population in Vietnam is the most clear manifestation to date of the fundamental differences between Peking and Hanoi. These differences center on Hanoi’s ties with Moscow and the competition for influence in Indochina and the rest of Southeast Asia.

• Peking is deeply suspicious of Vietnam’s regional ambitions, and also its tilt toward Moscow.

• Hanoi resents what it sees as Peking’s attempts to dominate Southeast Asia as well as its support to Cambodia.

• Cambodia is pivotal in the rift between China and Vietnam since it is the current focus of their rivalry for regional influence. Hanoi seems determined to bring a more malleable regime to power in Phnom Penh, while China shows no sign of willingness to soften its support of the current Cambodian leadership.

• The prospect is for continuing fighting between Cambodia and Vietnam, which means that Chinese support to Phnom Penh and Soviet assistance to Hanoi are also likely to increase.

• Although both sides realize that neither is likely to benefit from an all-out confrontation, bitterness is so deep that the situation could deteriorate further, especially if the Vietnam–Cambodia fighting intensifies.

• Hanoi might eventually feel it necessary to permit a Soviet military presence in Vietnam, long a major concern of Peking.

• The relationship between Peking and Hanoi already has moved into a new and probably protracted stage of open political warfare and heightened military tensions that could threaten the new equilibrium that has developed in Southeast Asia since the end of the Indochina war in 1974.

• The deterioration of Sino-Vietnamese relations almost certainly will prompt Hanoi to seek better relations with the United States, [Page 508] which the Vietnamese believe could become an alternate source of economic assistance.

[Omitted here is the body of the report.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Unfiled Files, Box 127, [China] 4/75–1/81. Secret.