The Western Pacific D+11 (20 July, 1987) Part III


Conditions along the Sino-Soviet frontier on D+11 were precarious to say the least. Soviet and Chinese forces stationed along the border maintained their vigilance, sharply aware of how close their respective nations stood to the brink of war. Cognizant of the incidents over the past two days, both sides avoided moving large numbers of troops, and vehicles too close to the border for fear of provoking an unintended clash.

With the entire Far Eastern TVD already on a high state of alert, the Far East Military District was the tip of the Soviet military spear when it came to potential operations against China. Its 3rd Guards Army and 5th Combined Army were both at full strength and deployed in the field. Their postures were centered on a fluid defense scheme that gave each group a large degree of flexibility, and also reflected the geopolitical uncertainty of the moment. Defense of the airspace was high on the Soviet priority list. Heavy and continuous combat air patrols were kept airborne with a large number of fighters maintained on the ground fueled, armed, and ready to scramble.

On the other side of the border the Shenyang Military District was on a similar alert. Four of its army groups were fully deployed within 100km of the frontier. The People’s Liberation Army forces did not possess the high mobility of Soviet forces. If the enemy crossed the border in large numbers the mission of the Shenyang military district’s ground forces would be to trade space for time, inflict heavy losses on the attackers, and prevent the Soviets from gaining control of Chinese population and industrial centers. The purpose was to buy time for large numbers of reinforcements from central and southern China to move in and join the battle. As a result, if a decision was made to launch a ground invasion of the Soviet Union, a period of time would be needed for the PLA army groups in the north and northeast to prepare and reorient for an offensive mission. This fact had an impact on political considerations.

The main political goal of the People’s Republic of China was to limit Soviet power in the PRC’s sphere of influence. This was long considered to be a critical national interest. North Korea sits squarely in the middle of the PRC sphere and the Soviet part in the war now taking place on the Korean peninsula was a major thorn in China’s side. Beijing understood and appreciated the current military layout and balance in the region. However, the decision was made on D+11 that any significant North Korean success on the battlefield would compel the PRC to begin military action against the Soviet Union in response.

In Moscow, Soviet leadership was against widening the war, but the importance of the Far East and Siberia could not be overlooked. The Politburo and General Secretary Romanov reaffirmed the nation’s commitment to support North Korea’s adventure with material and military advisors. Yet in no circumstances would Soviet forces actively participate in the Second Korean War now going on. China would not be attacked unless the PRC moved first. A possibility that was recognized, but not considered likely regardless of what happened in Korea.

The Far Eastern TVD would continue to maintain a high alert level and refrain from engaging US, Japanese, and South Korean air and naval forces. The Red Banner Pacific Fleet would remain off of Vladivostok, arrayed defensively to protect the vital Soviet port from possible attacks by the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

Whatever happened in the Far East from this point forward would be tied directly to the fighting in Korea.

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