If a war erupted over territorial rights and the recent positioning of a Chinese oil rig off the coast of
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Shadow of Brutal ’79 War Darkens Vietnam’s View of China Relations
— She was 14 when Chinese artillery fire echoed across the hills around her
home in northern Vietnam,
and hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers swarmed across the border. She
remembers sprinting with her parents through the peach trees, her waist-length
hair flying, as they fled the invaders. They ran straight into the enemy.
Her mother was shot and killed in front of her; minutes later, her father was wounded. “I was horrified. I didn’t think I would survive. The bullets were flying all around. I could hear them and smell the gunfire,” said Ha Thi Hien, now 49, fluttering her hands so they grazed her head to show how close the bullets came on the first day of the short, brutal war.
The conflict between
in 1979 lasted less than a month. But the fighting was so ferocious that its
legacy permeates the current sour relations between the two Communist countries
now at odds over hotly contested waters in the South China
Sea. Both sides declared victory then, though neither side prevailed, and
both armies suffered horrendous losses.
But with China, far richer, militarily stronger and more ambitious than at any time the two countries have faced each other in the modern era, how far to needle Beijing, when to pull back, and how to factor in the United States are becoming trickier. During the current tensions, the anti-Chinese sentiments of the Vietnamese people seem to have run ahead of the country’s ruling Politburo. “People in
Vietnam want to
be outside China’s grip,”
said Pham Xuan Nguyen, chairman of the Hanoi Literature Association, who
protested against the oil rig outside the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi. “But the Vietnamese people are
wondering what is the strategy of the government, and wondering if the
government is really against China
In 2012, the
States secretary of defense, Leon E.
Panetta, visited Cam Ranh Bay, the site of a major American base
during the Vietnam War, but so far the Vietnamese military, still mindful of
that war and years of antagonistic relations after it ended in 1975, has kept
its distance. Part of the aloofness is the result of a United States executive order that prohibits the
sale of American weapons to Vietnam,
a vestige of the Vietnam War. But Washington
is showing increasing interest in lifting the ban, and the expected new United States ambassador to Vietnam, Ted
Osius, who is awaiting confirmation from the Senate, said in testimony last
month that easing the embargo should be considered.
For the moment,
buys weapons mainly from Russia,
Israel and India. It has
taken delivery of two Kilo-class submarines from Russia, and has ordered four more. Japan has
pledged to provide coast guard vessels. In a move intended to encourage Vietnam to accept more from Washington,
Secretary of State John Kerry announced $18 million in nonlethal aid for
maritime security during a visit in December.
The shadow of the 1979 war, ordered by the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping to punish
for its invasion of Cambodia,
endures in places along the border. The memories are strong not only because of
the death toll but also because the Chinese pummeled towns and villages as they
withdrew, destroying schools and hospitals, in what the Chinese military later
called a “goodbye kiss.”
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/world/asia/06vietnam.html?rref=world/asia&module=Ribbon&version=context®ion=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Asia%20Pacific&pgtype=article
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25, 1911, in central
Vietnam's Quang Binh province, Giap
became active in politics in the 1920s and worked as a journalist before
joining the Indochinese Communist Party. He was jailed briefly in 1930 for
leading anti-French ...
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... boots-on-the-ground conflicts and minor interventions, firefights, air strikes, drone assassination campaigns, occupations, special ops raids, proxy conflicts, and covert actions - nearly nonstop since the Vietnam War began.