The Western Pacific D+12 (21 July, 1987) Part II


Although the atmosphere remained tense, the Sino-Soviet frontier had quieted down notably since the previous day. In the hours of pre-dawn darkness, the movement of Chinese and Soviet armored, and motorized vehicles around the border area came to an abrupt halt, as if by mutual agreement. This was not the case of course. However, the sensible orders issued by field commanders on both sides of the border underscored a growing determination by Beijing, and Moscow to avoid confrontation if possible.

Through the morning, and afternoon there were brief episodes of mortar and artillery fire exchanged in some areas. Harassment fire really that did no major damage. Inevitably, Chinese, and Soviet patrols on the ground also exchanged fire, but these incidents were sporadic and rarely resulted in casualties.

Soviet and Chinese leaders watched the fighting in Korea closely as the day went on, searching for a concrete indication on what direction the conflict was moving in. It was a foregone conclusion that Beijing and Moscow’s future actions in the Far East would be dictated by what happened in Korea. Neither side wanted war to erupt on the Sino-Soviet border and pour over into Manchuria, and Soviet territory. Yet at the same time, neither of them was willing to forfeit their vital national interests. This formula appeared almost destined to result in a major confrontation at some point.

Late in the day North Korea made a backdoor request to Moscow for more supplies and war material. The matter was discussed at the highest political and military levels of power, from the Kremlin to Vladivostok. The overall feeling was that supplying North Korea with weapons, and material was essential to Soviet interests. The alternatives were to either fully cut the North off from further resupply or intervene militarily in Korea to guarantee victory for Pyongyang. The notion of shipping material to North Korea by sea was considered. Using cargo ships would allow more supplies and material to be sent, yet such action would invite Chinese attempts to interdict the supplies while at sea. Even more concerning, Soviet resupply of North Korea by sea could provoke a confrontation with the US 7th Fleet in the Sea of Japan. So, it was decided that the resupply efforts would increase, but remain restricted to air transport, and overland movement.

Chinese fighters had been harassing Soviet transport flights from time to time. Accordingly, Soviet MiGs were now escorting the lumbering cargo planes to and from their destinations. On this day there were two separate incidents between the opposing fighters. The first involved a near mid-air collision between a Chinese J-7 and Soviet MiG-25. At 1830 the second incident occurred when another Chinese J-7 accidentally loosed a missile while joining up with a flight of Soviet transports and fighters. The missile did not hit any aircraft, but a Soviet fighter fired a pair of air-to-air missiles in return and knocked the J-7 out of the sky.

There was no further escalation of air incidents for the rest of the day. However, in Beijing, Chinese leadership was beginning to consider the idea of an air blockade to prevent Soviet supplies from reaching their destinations inside of North Korea.

8 Replies to “The Western Pacific D+12 (21 July, 1987) Part II”

  1. “There was no further escalation of air incidents for the rest of the day. However, in Beijing, Chinese leadership was beginning to consider the idea of an air blockade to prevent Soviet supplies from reaching their destinations inside of North Korea.”

    Well shit…. that will be when the fight REALLY does break out, the moment that occurs.

    The Chinese and the Soviets have the same gear, more or less. Be interesting to see who is the better force… with the Chinese having more they can throw in this theater.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d think a combination of more modern fighters (as in MiG-23s and above) plus a ton of SAMs (which if nothing else the J-7s have to steer around) should give the Soviets the edge, unless said modern fighters have been yanked from the Far East.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The more modern fighters would’ve remained there. War in Europe or not, the Soviets would’ve been worried about China.


  3. What about the (thin, but present) attachment of North Korea to the Soviet Union? Would they not be shipping stuff overland? They have a railway connection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, they have the rail bridges and all. Those would be in use too. I should’ve mentioned that, but stuck to the air resupply. Guess it fit the narrative more. Thanks for picking that up, Bill!


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