26, 1965, 10 p.m.
is our year-end political appraisal and outlook for North Vietnam
on eve of lunar new year.
looks back on 1964 with some measure of satisfaction. Its most
important single enterprise, armed insurgency in South Vietnam,
developed favorably. Viet Cong expanded area and scope of operations
and enjoyed number of military successes despite increasing US
assistance to GVN. Towards end of year they were able to challenge
GVN forces boldly if briefly in several relatively major engagements,
and scored several spectacular and well-publicized successes.
With exception of Tonkin Gulf incidents (2) Hanoi's
direction and growing support of insurgency went virtually unpunished
outside borders of South Vietnam.
of good fortune helped DRV and Viet Cong. Political instability
in South, manifested in series of govt upheavals and in recurrent
unrest, furthered their cause, not only in its adverse effect
on GVN military operations and pacification but also by encouraging
or rationalizing Vietnamese feelings of lassitude and doubt about
chances of putting down insurgency. It also combined with Viet
Cong military successes, with which it vied for attention in US
and world press, in furthering general pessimism in Western world
about war in Vietnam, and it was a principal factor in US public
debate about Vietnam policy towards end of year. Having seen and
realized possible benefits of this instability, DRV and National
Liberation Front attempted to support and even foment it, and
their propaganda exploited it to maximum advantage.
also helped DRV when Khrushchev was removed from power in USSR.
His fall offered DRV some hope for reduction in acerbity of Sino-Soviet
polemics and also offered good opportunity to improve relations
with USSR without giving excessive offense to Chinese. Hanoi moved
rapidly and skillfully to exploit opportunity and at this writing
appears to have been at least in part successful. New Soviet leadership's
apparent determination to reassert Soviet influence in Southeast
Asia is also auspicious development from DRV viewpoint. It is
not yet clear from here whether Soviets are planning to pursue
this course over long run or whether they are merely following
it as part of their post-Khrushchev policy review pending final
selection and assignment of worldwide priorities and commitments,
but Hanoi very probably welcomes development. Hanoi would hope
that Soviet influence will offer powerful additional deterrent
to any contemplated US action, as well as some counterbalance
to Chinese dominance of the area.
in Laos developed in manner less to Hanoi's liking. Though Pathet
Lao with heavy DRV military support won Plain of Jars, this was
counter balanced at least in part by Operation Triangle. Cooperation
between neutralists and right wing developed favorably, if in
fits and starts, and neutralist Premier Souvanna Phouma appears
to be taking increasingly tough anti-Communist line.
political scene remained relatively stable during 1964, with no
change apparent in top-level leadership or in major policies.
Possibly significant development was decline in public manifestations
of internal struggle resulting from Sino-Soviet split. Editorials
denouncing modern revisionists and listing their shortcomings
fell off during spring and dropped further after Khrushchev ouster.
Political personalities who had been principal spokesmen of emerging
pro-Chinese line during 1963 (e.g., Nguyen Chi Thanh, Le Duan)
receded into background, to be replaced gradually on center of
stage by traditional national personalities such as Pham Van Dong,
Vo Nguyen Giap, and Ho Chi Minh himself.
successes during 1964, year was not all favorable to DRV, and
Hanoi still faces host of problems in coming year. GVN military
establishment performed better than might reasonably have been
expected in view of political unrest, and was able to deal Viet
Cong number of damaging blows. Moreover, increasing number of
countries committed themselves behind GVN struggle. In 1965 Viet
Cong victory by military means is still not in sight, unless political
fabric in South tears completely or unless GVN Army is split and
rendered ineffectual by internecine political struggle. Outlook
is still for protracted struggle of indeterminate duration, with
war becoming more expensive for North (increased pace of infiltration
and accelerated supply of new and larger weapons). While there
has so far been nothing to suggest that this has placed any significant
strain on North Vietnam's economy, it might ultimately do so.
DRV has also been forced into greater public involvement with
Viet Cong by dispatch of Northern-born draftees to Viet Cong forces.
that Hanoi is more concerned about what might be termed "international
political escalation" of conflict. Basic DRV goal, which
appears increasingly difficult to realize, is to win wars in Laos
and South Vietnam and to repay full and exclusive benefits of
victory without bringing on excessive international attention
or involvement. Large scale US presence and commitment represents
clear and serious potential danger, of which Tonkin Gulf incidents
served as powerful and painful testimony. Soviets and particularly
Chinese, while offering welcome expressions of support, may well
demand increasing voice as their own commitment and/or assistance
grows. Indeed, if major powers become heavily committed, danger
arises that they may ultimately reach accord among themselves
which will not sufficiently take DRV interests into account. Ho
Chi Minh's international political position is stronger than it
had been in 1954, when he was forced to accept less than ideal
settlement. He is therefore relatively well insulated against
danger that this might happen again, but possibility cannot be
excluded if major powers continue to increase pressure. Entire
operation will become increasingly difficult and delicate for
DRV, and will require extremely adroit and sophisticated political
to continue to walk ideological fence during coming year as successfully
as during last months of 1964 will depend largely on events beyond
its control. If Soviets and Chinese can arrive at arrangement
which will permit worldwide Communist attendance at March 1 gathering
and at subsequent conference, or if other means are found to reduce
polemics, Hanoi's situation will be eased considerably. If, however,
gap widens further and altercations become increasingly bitter,
DRV may find it impossible to pursue relatively neutral course.
In latter case, despite grave Vietnamese reservations about Chinese,
it appears likely that Hanoi will choose to or be compelled to
support CPR. DRV will nonetheless still do everything possible
to maintain at least some ties to USSR as counterweight to Chinese
No major changes
in policy appear to be imminent or even contemplated on domestic
scene during coming year. New 5-year plan is not due to start
until end of 1965. As in past, big question mark remains possibility
that Ho Chi Minh, now 75, may pass away. No possible successor
now in view has his personal prestige and authority, or could
steer DRV through upcoming difficulties with same finesse as Ho.
that problems outlined above will be of considerable concern to
DRV leadership during coming year, but there is as yet no evidence
that existence of these problems has led DRV to relax its militancy
or to restrain its aggressive instincts. Instead, as new year
begins, DRV gives every indication that it intends to maintain
and even accelerate pace of insurgency throughout Southeast Asia,
to accept negotiations only on its own terms, and to persist in
its risky but possibly very profitable policy.