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By Nayan Chanda

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But he added that, if needed, Soviet ships would enjoy facilities at Cam Ranh Bay similar to those available to ships of other friendly countries. As I was to discover years later, Dien's protest was essentially a qUibble over the word base, because other Vietnamese diplomats admitted to me six years later that in 1975 Moscow indeed had unsuccessfully pressed for military facilities-something they would not get for four more years, with the deepening of Vietnam's conflict with China. Even without Soviet bases , what was worrying to China was the sudden shift in the balance of power in Southeast Asia.

Since the mid-1950s there had been disagreement over certain sections of the Sino-Vietnamese land border, but that had not posed any problem. After Nixon's 1972 visit to China, and with the end of American bombing in the North and the signing of the Paris Agreement, Hanoi began assuming a more 21 BROTHER ENEMY assertive posture on territorial issues . Unbeknownst to the world, minor clashes had started on the border. According to later Chinese revelations, one hundred clashes took place in 1974, and following Hanoi's victory in the South the number increased fourfold .

18 Coming as it did after China's armed seizure of the Paracels, this statement was implicit criticism . But, given the need for Chinese economic and military assistance in fighting the war in the South, Hanoi. could not afford to go any further. A year later, with total victory in the South in sight, the time had finally come for the Vietnamese Communists to assert openly their position against China by announcing the "liberation" of six islands in the Spratly chain (Truong Sa in Vietnamese).

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