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China Disdains Vietnam's Withdrawal in Cambodia

September 29, 1989|DAVID HOLLEY | Times Staff Writer

BEIJING — China declared Thursday that it considers Vietnam's troop withdrawal from Cambodia a sham and that it will continue to send arms to the Khmer Rouge guerrillas fighting the Vietnamese-installed government of Cambodia.

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry also leveled new charges in the dispute with Vietnam over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. These charges appeared to be intended, at least in part, to increase the pressure on Vietnam over Cambodia.

The two statements were not formally linked, but were announced at the start of a news conference.

'At Least 30,000' Remain

Vietnam, which invaded Cambodia in late 1978 to overthrow the murderous Khmer Rouge regime and install a client government, says that in the past few days, it has withdrawn the last of its troops from Cambodia. But the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Li Zhaoxing, charged that "facts clearly show that Vietnam has not genuinely withdrawn all its forces."

He said that "at least 30,000 Vietnamese military personnel have changed their uniforms" and have been integrated with Cambodian forces and that Vietnam "has left behind large amounts of weapons and military equipment."

"Hidden among the over 1 million illegal Vietnamese settlers in Cambodia are many Vietnamese militiamen and special agents," he said. "Clearly, there has been no change in Vietnam's basic scheme for keeping Cambodia under its control and creating an Indochina federation."

As Vietnam has withdrawn all or most of its troops from Cambodia--at one point they numbered more than 140,000, according to Western estimates--international concern has shifted to the question of whether the Khmer Rouge will retake power and engage in another wave of killings. The Khmer Rouge regime is believed to have caused the deaths of about 1 million people when it controlled Cambodia from 1975 to 1978.

The Khmer Rouge is now the strongest element of a resistance coalition headed by the exiled Prince Norodom Sihanouk.

Conditions for Ending Aid

Li, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said China will discontinue its aid to the resistance only after Vietnam genuinely withdraws all its troops and the various Cambodian factions reach a political settlement.

Referring to the dispute over the islands, Li charged that in the past four months Vietnam has sent troops to the Pengbobao Reef, the Wanan Shoal and the Guangya Shoal in the Nansha Islands, which are referred to in the West as the Spratly Islands. In Vietnam, the term is Truong Sa archipelago.

"The Chinese government strongly condemns the Vietnamese authorities for their illegal act of invasion and occupation of some of the reefs and shoals in China's Nansha Islands," Li said, "and firmly demands that the Vietnamese side withdraw from all the islands, reefs and shoals which it has illegally invaded and occupied."

Naval Battle

Tension over the island chain erupted into armed conflict in March, 1988. China and Vietnam accused each other of initiating the fighting, which involved ships of both sides firing on each other near what China calls the Chigua Reef. Vietnam said that three of its ships were sunk, that four sailors were killed and 74 others were missing.

Foreign diplomats in Beijing have said recently that they were expecting China to escalate the dispute in order to increase its leverage over Vietnam on the Cambodia issue.

China is also seen as wishing to control the islands because of what are believed to be significant underwater deposits of oil and gas in the area.

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