North Vietnam has warned the United States that it will fire at all planes invading its air space "whether they are reconnaissance aircraft or fighters."
The strong statement came on the heels of President Nixon's warning at his press conference Thursday night that he will reserve the right to resume bombing North Vietnam if the Hanoi government ignores its "understanding" with Washington on U. S. reconnaissance flights over the North.
If both threats are carried out, they could lead to a new air war over North Vietnam.
Hanoi's warning was made in an editorial in the official Hanoi newspaper, Nhan Dan, a step short of an official declaration of policy.
The Nhan Dan editorial, broadcast from Hanoi, said: "Regarding enemy aircraft-regardless of whether they are reconnaissance aircraft, or fighters, whether they come discretely, in flight formation or in groups, and regardless of whether they come by night or day-we are resolved to implement the slogan, 'Detect the enemy as soon as he comes, annihilate him as soon as he comes, accurately hit his aircraft in the initial burst of gunfire, down enemy aircraft on the spot, and capture aggressor pilots alive.'"
That language could be either psychological warfare or a prelude to action, Washington observers noted. There was no official U. S. comment.
The President was equally stern at his press conference, saying. "If our planes are fired upon, I will not only order that they return the fire" but will order them to respond with fullattacks on the military sights involved and their surrounding "complexes."
He also criticized the Hanoi government, branding it an "international outlaw."
Bombing Would Follow
Defense Secretary Melvin Laird said Friday that if the disputed 1968 "understandings" for halting the bombing of North Vietnam are "thrown out, then the bombing of the North would eventually follow."
According to some specialists, a resumption of the bombing could be to the political benefit of North Vietnam as it would stiffen the siege mentality of North Vietnam's people and increase world and U. S. pressure on President Nixon to meet Hanoi's terms for ending the war.
In other developments, the Defense Department announced a January draft call of 17,000 men. The call is the highest since April and 4,500 more than last January.
Officials insisted, however, that the projected increase was not related to military operations in Vietnam or even to global developments. And one official noted that draft calls normally rise in January.