According to informed sources in Bangkok on Friday (23 February), Chinese forces have thrust deeper into northern Vietnam, and are believed to be in control of at least four towns -- all of them provincial capitals.
According to informed sources in Bangkok on Friday (23 February), Chinese forces have thrust deeper into northern Vietnam, and are believed to be in control of at least four towns -- all of them provincial capitals. The sources said the first major battle of the week-old conflict appeared to be developing north of the provincial capital of Lang Song on the road to the main border crossing at Friendship Pass. The conflict has revived in Lang Son province a universal sight of warfare, and a factor of Vietnamese life for more than a generation -- streams of refugees on the roads.
SYNOPSIS: The eternal victims are farmers and villagers. They have been fleeing from heavy fighting -- as they did when the French and Americans were their country's adversaries -- by buffalo and ox carts, and by bicycle. Those without these means, or who left their homes more hurriedly, trudge on foot towards the unknown. In the past forty years, Vietnam has known less than four years of even relative tranquillity. Flight from danger has become a repeating factor in life.
Close to the front, doctors and nurses in local hospitals have been working around the clock treating and caring for injured soldiers.
Radio Hanoi has given no figures of Vietnamese casualties, but claimed on Friday (23 February) that more than thirteen thousand Chinese troops were killed or wounded in the first six days of fighting, including one thousand on Thursday (22 February) alone. Intelligence sources in Tokyo reported on Friday that military activity had increased on both sides of the Sino-Soviet border. But the Chinese and the Soviet Union, Vietnam's close ally, were reported to be moving more road and rail traffic near their border, and reconnaissance flights were being stepped up.
In Hanoi, the Vietnamese war effort is being controlled by Prime Minister Pham van Dong and General Giap, the military strategist who masterminded their resistance against both the French and American forces. From Washington on Friday came U.S. intelligence reports that the Soviet Union had begun to fly supplies to Vietnam, apparently to counter the Chinese attack.
As Vietnamese troop reinforcements moved towards the border battle areas, Reuters news agency reported that Soviet leaders, in a series of speeches on Friday, condemned China, but carefully avoided pledging the Soviet Union to any retaliatory action. Along with the Chinese casualty figures, Radio Hanoi on Friday also said the Vietnamese had destroyed four Chinese tanks, six artillery pieces, two mortars and a number of trucks in action the previous day. It claimed that Vietnamese infantry and artillery had struck at Chinese forces in fighting at Dong Dang. Reuters said the mention of infantry and artillery suggested the Vietnamese had pushed regular units into the battle with the Chinese. Previously, Radio Hanoi said their combatants were 'armed forces and people', as well as regional forces and militia.