On 19 January 1967, Prime Minister Nguyễn Cao Kỳ held a press conference at the Canberra Hotel during an official visit to Australia. He was asked a couple of questions about the Communist Chinese role in North Vietnam. Let me cite the questions and responses, and then I will offer some comments below.
Question: Sir, I understand that you come from North Vietnam and I understand that lots of refugees have also come from North Vietnam, why is there not more guerrilla warfare in the North organized by your Government, sir?
And, secondly, I believe that the Vietnamese people have a great record of struggle for their independence. I find it hard to understand sometimes why if, supposing the threat from China was more immediate, would this in some way help to unite the people of Vietnam, both North and South, against this threat?
Answer: The problem of organizing a guerrilla in North Vietnam is a military secret. I cannot tell you. But I think it’s a good thing – it’s a good idea. It’s a good suggestion.
. . . Concerning China, I think your remarks are right. That’s the one reason when some people ask me if there is any possibilities that North Vietnam will ask Red China, Communist China, for military aid of sending Communist troops to North Vietnam – I said “No.” Because if Hanoi Leaders do so and then I am sure that all the Vietnamese from North and South will unite in one group and stand up and destroy regime and defend our land. There is no possibility the Hanoi regime will ask Red China for military help. And if it happens, if it happens, I think it will be good occasion for us to unify our country.
Question: Prime Minister, in view of the reply you just made about the possible involvement of Chinese troops in the struggle, I wonder if you can give us your understanding of China’s involvement in this War and whether you can find any hope in the present upheaval in China in a weakening of the stubborn resistance by Hanoi to come to a negotiated settlement?
Answer: Concerning the addition of Red China to North Vietnam – all the weapons and armament we capture – and many thousands and thousands in South Vietnam – are all Red China. Until today, we never captured Communist Chinese soldiers in the South. But according to our intelligence, we know that there are many Chinese Communists who serve as advisory groups in North Vietnam, or rebuild railroads – technicians.
Concerning the trouble happening at the present time in Red China, it is very serious and it will affect the North Vietnam regime very much. In what degree, I don’t know yet.
So according to Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, if Communist Chinese soldiers participated in the war, then the entire country would unite in resistance to the Chinese. At the same time, however, he acknowledges that there were Communist Chinese “technicians” in the North, and that a lot of the weapons that were captured in the South were from China.
So why did that not have the same effect? If Chinese soldiers participate, then the entire nation will unite in resistance. As for the (wasn’t it hundreds of thousands of??) Chinese technicians and weapons. . . no big deal, life goes on. . .
Is there a logic there?
Ideas about China in the North at that time were equally illogical. In the 1950s, writers in the North were talking about the Vietnamese and Chinese as “militant friends,” but then when the Cultural Revolution began and some of the Chinese technicians in North Vietnam started to promote the radical ideas of that movement, some Vietnamese in the North started to write about the “history of Vietnamese resistance to Chinese aggression”. . .
[I’ve attached the pages that contain these comments below. For the full transcript of this press conference, consult the National Archives of Australia for the following file – NAA: A1838, 3014/10/10/4 PART 1, South Vietnam – Visitors to Australia – Nguyen Cao Ky, 1966-1967. The transcript starts on page 149 of this file.]