North Viet Nam: River of Aid

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One reason that the North Vietnamese and their Viet Cong comrades are able to mount their renewed threat in Quang Tri province—and, indeed, in much of the rest of South Viet Nam —is that they are receiving ever larger amounts of aid from their allies. Intelligence sources reported last week that the Chinese and Russians, who have been quarreling about the transit of Russian aid across China by rail, have reached an agreement that will speed the flow. North Viet Nam's Foreign Minister Nguyen Duy Trinh went off to make a pitch for even more aid in Peking, Moscow and East Berlin, where the East German Communists are holding their party congress. From the Communist camp outside Viet Nam, a river of arms and economic aid flows into the north that amounts to more than $1 billion a year—and is almost certain to be stepped up.

The largest share of the aid to Hanoi —about $600 million a year—comes from the Soviet Union, which provides most of the North's oil and such larger equipment as trucks, tractors and generators. Russia has equipped almost the entire North Vietnamese air-defense network, including some 8,500 antiaircraft guns, about 25 surface-to-air (SAM) missile batteries, and squadrons of jet fighters that range from the new model MIG-21s to Korean War-vintage MIGs. It has also supplied some 20 patrol boats for harbor and canal duty plus a number of mammoth helicopters that can carry up to 100 persons.

About $250 million in aid comes from neighboring China, which may have to donate as much as 500,000 tons of rice to North Viet Nam this year because of food shortages. China also provides almost 80% of the Viet Cong's infantry weapons, mostly rifles and mortars; small government factories in North Viet Nam can turn out only limited quantities of grenades, land mines and pistols. From the Red bloc in Eastern Europe comes about $150 million worth of materiel. It includes such items as small arms and flak vests from Czechoslovakia, boots and artillery from Poland, medicines from Rumania, motorcycles and bicycles from East Germany and Hungary.

Staunch Backs. About two-thirds of all Communist aid comes through North Viet Nam's principal port of Haiphong, free of any interference by U.S. Seventh Fleet warships patrolling the Gulf of Tonkin. Most of the Russians' oil and machinery land on Haiphong's always crowded docks; even the nearby Chinese ship most of their aid to Haiphong rather than send it overland. Since February, there has been a change in the pattern of traffic at Haiphong; fewer Chinese ships are arriving and, as if by agreement between the two countries, more Soviet ships are taking their place. In what reflects a deepening crisis in the North's agriculture, the Russians in the first three months of 1967 have unloaded almost 75,000 tons of rice, maize and other foodstuffs at Haiphong. That is as much food as they contributed to North Viet Nam in all of 1966.

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