WASHINGTON (Aug. 6)
The possibility was considered here today that the North Viet Nam torpedo boats which attacked the American destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin were supplied by Egypt. It has been definitely established that Egypt sold Russian military equipment–including Soviet torpedo boats-to Red China after Moscow ceased shipping arms to the Peiping regime because of ideological differences.
Information received in Washington indicated that Egypt recently obtained newer types of naval craft such as the Soviet-built motor torpedo boats, including the missile-firing “Komar” boats and has a surplus of motor torpedo boats previously received from the Soviet Union. At the same time it is known here that the Egyptian Government, friendly to both Red China and North Viet Nam, has sold various categories of surplus Soviet arms in the Far East.
One of the opinions prevailing here is that President Nasser of Egypt is now “playing off” Peiping against Moscow, to extract maximum advantage from both, just as he has successfully played off the East against the West. Leading Red Chinese military authorities have been state guests in Cairo. Nasser recognized North Viet Nam, backed the Viet Cong forces as “freedom fighters,” and lauded Ho Chi Minh.
Although Egypt needs arms for its continuing military intervention in Yemen, it is nevertheless known that Nasser has not only resold surplus Soviet weapons but that he also sells weapons of his own manufacture, made with the help of German technicians now working in Egypt on military establishments. Among arms sold by Egypt, have been military aircraft, torpedo boats, tanks, artillery, automatic weapons, mortars, machine guns, and rifles.
Since Cairo desired to keep secret its arms manipulations with countries out of favor with Moscow, like Red China, it is considered here possible that neither American nor Soviet intelligence evaluated the extent of the clandestine sales and shipments. Torpedo boats, moving under their own power, could be accompanied by a refueling ship and easily move from Suez to the Far East.
The torpedo boats believed sold by Egypt to Red China or North Viet Nam would have been among those obtained in the 1950′s at bargain rates and on easy payment terms offered by Moscow in its anxiety to infiltrate the Arab world.