Eleven Meetings Between Beijing and Hanoi from 10-1964 to 02-1968
Highlights of the eleven meeting series
1. The planning of the invasion of South Vietnam was not done in Hanoi, but Beijing.
2. The planners were not Ho Chi Minh, Pham Van Dong, Le Duan, Vo Nguyen Giap and Van Tien Dung and Nguyen Duy Tring, but Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Tao Zhu, Deng Xiaoping, Liu Shaoqi, Kang Shen, Ye Jianying, Peng Zhen, Luo Ruiqing and Zhu Qiwen.
3. The escalation to division level was decided in 1964 and approved by Mao Zedong on 10/5/64 meeting.
4. Mao Zedong laid out all the possible reactions from the Americans and how it could be handle: if they commit ground troops in the South, if they invade the North, if they attack China Air Force …
5. Mao Zedong dictated the conduct of the war to Pham Van Dong. In the North, to construct defensive works along the coast like the Chinese did in Korea War; not to engage main force head-to-head confrontation. In the South, to actively fight the enemy.
6. Mao Zedong admitted Red China were “belligerent”
7. Le Duan asked for pilots, soldiers, road and bridge engineering units.
8. Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh planned to build roads from China border to the South front, from Samneua to Lower Laos to South Vietnam, and roads to Thailand … with Chinese soldiers.
9. Zhou Enlai did not approved Soviet aid but wanted Cambodian involvement in the war.
10. In 1966, Deng Xiaoping said there were 100,000 Chinese soldiers in Vietnam. Le Duan said more than 500,000 were needed.
11. Soviet proposed to increase aid through China from 10 to 30 thousand tons a month.
12. Zhou Enlai was committed to the war in Vietnam even at 70 years old.
13. Zhou Enlai instructed to Pham Van Dong and Vo Nguyen Giap how to conduct the war with three possibilities: the war will continue and expand; 2. The enemy will blockade the coast; 3. The crucial moment of the 1968 dry season year. He also emphasis the importance of political struggle.
14. On 02/07/1968 meeting, Zhou Enlai proposed Ho Chi Minh to step up the war to field army corps level of 30,000-40,000 soldiers aiming at eliminating 4,000-5,000 enemy soldiers in whole units and used the strategy of using tunnels to approach enemy bases, the strategy of night and short distant fighting, and the construction of underground galleries for troop movement and ammunition transportation.
This series of meetings between Chinese Communist Politburo and North Vietnamese Politburo reveals one major point:
The Vietnam War was a confrontation between Red China and the United States in which the United States blinked the eyes first. Therefore, who is to be blamed for the loss of South Vietnam? Not the ARVN who was accused of not wanting and not capable of defending their own country after the American troops left. It was the Americans who cut off completely all aid in 1975. Vice versa, without Red China looming tall behind, the North Vietnamese Communists would never - so called - 'defeat' the United States and the South.
If the United States continued to aid South Vietnam, it would not collapse in 1975 and no matter how little the aid, the North Vietnamese Communists would not be able to conquer the entire South Vietnam. The ARVN would be able to prolong the fight, even to revert to conducting a guerrilla warfare if needed be. The Viet Nam issue would never be able to be resolved on the battlefields, with one side able to defeat the other side militarily. And when both sides get tired, they would have to agree to seat down on a round table and resolve the issue politically.
Having faced the NVA in the battlefields, General Hieu knew it was clear that the ARVN would never defeat them, and vice versa. He was convinced, therefore, that when everybody was tired of fighting each other, a political solution would be eventually sought by everyone. When it came to that point, South Vietnam would fall into the Communists' hands if the corruption plague was not eradicated in the ARVN: “Either we correct our faults or the Communists will correct them for us.”
The USA Blinked the eyes first ... When, Who, Why and What …
In 1971, the North Vietnamese Communists was told by their Chinese Communists counterparts that they could go ahead attacking South Vietnam with the blessings of the Americans, because in his meeting with Prime Minister Zhou Enlai on July 9, 1971, Kissinger indicated that "the Nixon administration was determined to withdraw from Vietnam even unilaterally, and even if it led to the overthrow of the government of South Vietnam." This position of the Nixon administration had been kept secret until it was recently revealed by the release of classified documents by the National Security Archive, an independent research group and reported by the New York Times on February 27, 2002.
In a nutshell, Zhou Enlai bartered with Kissinger: you can have China's market if you agree to let my little brother win the war.
Emboldened by the American eagerness to withdraw unilaterally from Vietnam at all costs, in May of 1972, the North Vietnamese Communists launched their attacks simultaneously at three fronts: Quang Tri in the I Corps, Kontum in the II Corps, and An Loc in the III Corps. Quang Tri was lost immediately and was only retaken by the ARVN in September 1972. Kontum was able to hold through a two week siege. An Loc was able to hold through a three month siege. In all these three battlefronts, the ARVN units were able to hold-up against the enemy only with intensive American air-power, especially with the carpet bombing of B-52s. Temporary, the Vietnamization seemed to be working.
Realizing that the ARVN would be still strong enough to resist their attacks with the assistance of the United States, the North Vietnamese Communists agreed to sign the Paris Agreements on January 23, 1973, just to make the Americans limit combat materials supply on a one-to-one replacement basis to the ARVN and not to provide air-power support to the ARVN, in exchange for American POWs' release. But then, right after the signing of the accord, the Ho Chi Minh trail became a 24-hour-7-day all-weather conduit of troops and materials streaming from the North to the South. Meanwhile, to the delight of the North Vietnamese Communists and to the bewilderment of the South Vietnamese, the United States reduced funding to South Vietnam 30% (from 1.6 billion to 1.26 billion) in 1973, and 60% (from 1.6 billion to 700 millions) in 1974. Furthermore, the United States reduced ground ammunition down 30% (from 179,000 tons to 126,000 tons) and P.O.L and spare parts down 50%.
In 1974, the North Vietnamese Communists were still fearful of a private promise Nixon made to Thieu to re-enter South Vietnam militarily if the North invades the South. They decided to test that promise by attacking Phuoc Long in December 1974. When Phuoc Long fell in January without provoking any American reaction, they got bolder and attacked and vanquished Ban Me Thuot in March 1975, still without any reaction from the United States.
In March 1975, President Ford's unresponsiveness forced President Thieu to make two disastrous tactical withdrawals of troops from the I and II Corps which resulted in the annihilation of all ARVN combat units in these two Corps. When General Weyand arrived in Vietnam in April 1975 on a fact-finding mission, he found that the NVA forces had 200.000 men and 123 regiments as opposed to 54.000 men and 39 regiments of the ARVN. He recommended that President Ford should provide 750 million dollars in emergency funds to rebuild the armed forces of South Vietnam and B-52 air-strikes to contain the advance of the North Vietnamese Communists units. Both requests were denied, resulting in the total collapse of the South.
On April 6, 1975 morning, Thieu summoned General Hieu to the Presidential Palace for consultation. General Hieu did not hesitate to assess that the disorganized retreats of I Corps and II Corps had reduced the ARVN's fighting strength to a desperate point which would not enable it to counter the NVA's rapid advance. If the United States do not re-enter the Viet Nam battlefield, the ARVN will run out of ammunition in two months, the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the ARVN has no other choice than to order the combat units to lay down their arms and to surrender, if he cared to avoid wasteful bloodshed to the combatants and the population.
Thieu did not heed to General Hieu’s warning and had him assassinated on April 8...
General Hieu and Nixon’s 1/5/1973 letter to Thieu
As III Corps Deputy Commander/Operations, General Hieu’s task was to defend Saigon against the Viet Cong’s final push in April 1975. In his military planning, he needed to have all the parameters in hand, and one of those was the assurance from Nixon “of continued assistance in the post-settlement period and that we will respond with full force should the settlement be violated by North Vietnam. So once more I conclude with an appeal to you to close ranks with us.”
Although he was very close to Vice President Tran Van Huong, he only heard of the rumor of such letter. He set out to know for sure the existence of such assurance. For that purpose, he dispatched LTC Tran Van Thuong, who was about to leave Viet Nam to attend the US Army Command and Control College, to the singer Thanh Lan’s residence, to find out the truth. Why Thanh Lan? Because she was Hoang Duc Nha’s secret lover and Nha was Thieu’s cousin and special secretary. One late night, on June 13 1974, prior to entering Thanh Lan’s house at 7:30 p.m., General Hieu’s intelligence agents wired Thuong with recording devices. However, he came out of the fishing expedition empty handed because he could not raise the question to Thanh Lan in the presence of her father who would not leave the two of them alone. Thuong continued his efforts in the finding of that letter while attending the USCGSC on General Hieu's behalf to no avail until the day he met with President Ford in Summer 1977. President Ford cautioned him not to divulge secret correspondences between the United States and Saigon, including that letter if he had it (he still did not at that point in time) ... Thuong deemed President Ford wanted to maintain the American's credibility before the international opinion ...
Thuong only found out in reading the Palace File, 1986 that in mid April, President Thieu dispatched an emissary to Washinton, D.C. on an aid seeking mission and had given to Le Tien Hung copies of twelve secret letters Nixon sent to him during the Paris Accord negotiations. In two of those secret letters Nixon promised Thieu the United States would re-enter South Vietnam if Hanoi violates the Paris Accords.
- 11/14/1972 letter
Can Thieu be blamed for believing in Nixon’s promises? Hardly. He was unlucky to have Ford as Nixon’s successor in the White House: President Ford was not forceful enough against the Congress in keeping his predecessor’s words. Never mind the finger-pointing between the Oval Office and the Capitol, the United States’ credibility as an allied was really abysmal.
Obviously, this wavering attitude did not help the ARVN soldier’s fighting motivation and performance a bit … Stop at least blaming the ARVN and praising the NVA in the collapse of Saigon.
Bottom line, in the staring contest between Red China and the United States, the USA blinked the eyes first … the rest is irrelevant…
Nguyen Van Tin