Communist Indochina and the Big Powers

February 9, 1979

Report Outline
Continuing Indochina Conflict
Growth of Regional Rivalries
Big Power Leverage in Region
Special Focus

Continuing Indochina Conflict

Growing Concern Over Recent Developments

Some problems simply refuse to go away. After the communist takeovers of South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in April 1975, most Americans were willing to forget about Indochina and repress their concern about the non-communist “dominoes” throughout Asia. The flood of refugees from the region and the simmering feud between Vietnam, allied with the Soviet Union, and Cambodia, backed by China, made total oblivion impossible. But it was the capture of the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh on Jan. 7 by Vietnamese troops and the Vietnamese-created and supported Cambodian United Front for National Salvation that intensified U.S. interest in the area.

State Department spokesman John F. Cannon emphasized American concern immediately after the fall of Phnom Penh and much of the rest of Cambodia. Calling for a withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from the country, Cannon stated that “our priority is to bring a local conflict to a speedy resolution and to prevent it from becoming a wider conflict.” The Carter administration subsequently warned the Soviet Union and China not to intervene in the dispute. But the administration tried to maintain an even-handed policy, coupling its criticism of the Vietnamese invasion with denunciations of the ousted Cambodian government's human rights record.

The Soviet and Chinese reactions reflected both their own enmity and the point of view of their Indochinese allies. A commentary in the official Soviet news agency Tass on Jan. 7 called the regime of Cambodian Prime Minister Pol Pot “a reactionary dictatorial clique” and said that its fall “will undoubtedly be received with profound satisfaction and joy by millions of people in different parts of the world.” The same day, China, in a statement to the U.N. Security Council, warned that Vietnam's drive to annex Cambodia “by force and set up an ‘Indochina Federation’ under its control is a major step in pushing its own regional hegemony and an important part of the Soviet drive for hegemony in Asia and the Far East.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Communism and Socialism
Aug. 02, 2011  Communism Today
Mar. 04, 1988  Communist Reformers Look West
Dec. 28, 1984  Communist Economies
Sep. 21, 1984  Southern European Socialism
Feb. 09, 1979  Communist Indochina and the Big Powers
Apr. 23, 1976  Western European Communism
May 28, 1969  World Communist Summit
Nov. 20, 1968  Intellectuals in Communist Countries
Aug. 28, 1968  Scandinavia and Socialism
Oct. 18, 1967  Soviet Communism After Fifty Years
Sep. 21, 1966  Soviet Economy: Incentives Under Communism
Sep. 15, 1965  Thailand: New Red Target
Dec. 18, 1963  Communist Schisms
Mar. 13, 1963  Venezuela: Target for Reds
Apr. 25, 1962  Teaching About Communism
Dec. 01, 1960  Farming and Food in Communist Lands
Apr. 27, 1960  Communist Party, U.S.A.
Nov. 07, 1956  Reds and Redefection
Apr. 11, 1956  Communists and Popular Fronts
Dec. 07, 1955  Religion Behind the Iron Curtain
Nov. 12, 1954  Communist Controls
Feb. 11, 1953  Red Teachers and Educational Freedom
Apr. 04, 1950  Loyalty and Security
Aug. 19, 1949  Church and Communism
Jul. 22, 1949  Reds in Trade Unions
Jul. 05, 1949  Academic Freedom
Feb. 11, 1948  Control of Communism in the United States
Feb. 05, 1947  Investigations of Un-Americanism
Nov. 13, 1946  Communism in America
Mar. 28, 1935  Anti-Radical Agitation
Oct. 19, 1932  The Socialist Vote in 1932
Aug. 08, 1931  National Economic Councils Abroad
Conflicts in Asia
Regional Political Affairs: East Asia and the Pacific
War and Conflict