China told Vietnam yesterday that its anti-Chinese policy had become "intolerable" and sternly warned against further border incidents in an authoritative editorial in the official People's Daily.
The warning came as Chinese Communist Party Vice Chairman Teng Hsiao-ping conferred with Malaysian leaders on the second stop of his landmark tour of Southeast Asia. Teng's frequent warnings of Vietnamese aggression, plus a just-completed visit by Chinese Vice Chairman Wang Tung-hsing to Cambodia, underline Peking's growing public alarm over reports of a planned Vietnamese offensive against Cambodia and over Hanoi's efforts to make friends with non-Communist Asians.
"We sternly warn the Vietnamese authorities: draw back your criminal hand stretched to Chinese territory and stop the provocation and intrusion along the Chinese-Vietnamese border," said the People's Daily editorial, referring to a Nov. 1 incident in which six Chinese died.
"Since last August, the Vietnamese authorities have successively sent armed personnel and militiamen to intrude into many areas in China's Kwangsi and Yunnan provinces to set up barbed wire entanglements, dig trenches and lay mines," said the editorial, the full text of which was transmitted here by the official New China News Agency. "The arrogant way they expressed hostility toward the Chinese people has become quite intolerable."
Vietnam has blamed the Nov. 1 outbreak of border violence on Peking, saying Chinese forces invaded Vietnamese territory and ambushed a militia unit. Hanoi responded to the latest Chinese charges by announcing it had posthumously decorated a squad leader killed by "Chinese hooligans" in a bloody Aug. 25 border scuffle.
A rapid series of events in recent weeks has added new tension and significance to China's feud with Vietnam and to Teng's long anticipated trip to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. The prospect of more heavy fighting on the Cambodian-Vietnamese border and increased Soviet involvement in the area have made Southeast Asia at least the temporary focus of Chinese foreign policy.
Although Peking has been decrying alleged collusion between Vietnam and the Soviet Union for several months, Chinese rhetoric became even more strident with the surprise signing of a 25-year treaty of friendship and cooperation between Moscow and Hanoi on Nov. 3.
The treaty comes close to being a military alliance between the two mightiest military powers on China's borders. It calls for immediate mutual consultation whenever Vietnam or the Soviet Union "is attacked or threatened with attack."
Vietnamese diplomats have rushed to assure their counterparts in Southeast Asia that the treaty is only designed to ward off the threat of attack from China and in no way diminishes Hanoi's commitment to keeping Southeast Asia free from Soviet and other superpower influence. Diplomats here agree that the Vietnamese may have indeed been forced to accept closer ties than they wanted with Moscow in order to ensure a steady flow of Soviet supplies to their stricken economy. Vietnamese Premier Pham Van Dong's tour of Southeast Asia in September and October, which in part stimulated Teng's subsequent trip, may have been designed to soften the impact of the impending Moscow treaty.
But Chinese diplomats are said to be encouraging Southeast Asian analysts to draw ominous paralells between the Nov. 3 treaty and a similar agreement that then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi signed with Moscow in 1971. Gandhi's move turned out to be a calculated effort to win a key ally for her eventual war against Pakistan, which forced the Pakistanis to abandon Bangladesh.
Yesterday's People's Daily editorial charged similar motives in Vietnam's dealings with Moscow while carrying on a border war against Cambodia.
"The Soviet Union gives advice to and creates public opinion for Vietnam's aggression against Kampuchea (Cambodia) and provides it with large quantities of weapons and many advisers for purpose. To overthrow Democratic Kampuchea is but the first step of their plan of aggression and expansion," the editorial said.
The Chinese in turn are providing thousands of military advisers to the Cambodians and are, foreign intelligence sources said, building a new airfield near Phnon Penh. A Hong Kong source with close ties to Peking insisted this week, however, that China had no intention of sending ground troops to Cambodia as it did to Korea in 1950.
Peking seemed eager to underline its support for Cambodia this week with a top-level delegation led by Vice Chairman Wang. As a former head bodyguard for the late Mao Tse-tung and as the fifth-ranked Chinese leader, Wang is a mysterious figure with wideranging intelligence responsibilities. He last ventured abroad during a crucial tour of Southeast Asia by then Chinese president Liu Shao-chi. Liu soon fell in a purge fueled by information from traveling campanion Wang, who won a promotion.
Although the Chinese seemed to be trying to persuade the Cambodians to moderate their harsh domestic policies and win more friends abroad, it is uncertain what kind of message Wang carried other than an unspoken warning to Hanoi to call off its offensive.A Hong Kong source with close China ties this week excused the reports of mass atrocities in Cambodia as the usual difficulteis encountered by any new revolutionary government getting started.
"A country learns a lot, governments mature," the source said.
In a press conference in Thailand, his first stop, Teng bluntly told Vietnam to forget about using its new Soviet ties against Cambodia. Moscow and Hanoi had become more belligerent since the treaty signing, Teng said.
We must watch and see how much aggression they [the Vietnamese] make against Cambodia, then we will decide about measures we will take, "Teng said.
While Southeast Asian governments may hope such warnings will persuade Hanoi to soften its attack on Cambodia, and rely instead on a Vietnamese backed insurgency against Cambodia's leader, Pol Pot, there is no ready solution for a more serious Vietnamese problem - the steady of Vietnamese refugees. The Malaysian and Indonesian governments have been faced this week with the particularly troublesome problem of a small coastal freighter, the Hai Hong, carrying perhaps 2,500 Vietnamese and anchored off the west Malaysian coast. International relief officials, suspecting the Vietnamese paid for the freighter to pick them up in Vietnam as part of a new profit-making syndicate, have refused to certify them as refugees. No one so far has been willing to take them in, despite the fact that half of them are children and that food and water supplies are reportedly running low.