GENEVA (UPI) -- Communist North Viet Nam told the International Red Cross today American pilots taken prisoner will be tried as war criminals. The implication was they would be executed if found guilty.
Hanoi, in a letter to Red Cross accused the United States of "deliberately bombing hospitals, schools, villages, etc." It did not openly threaten to execute captured fliers but the implication was clear in the warning the second in two days.
The letter said Hanoi "considers in consequence that enemy pilots taken prisoners are war criminals liable to go before tribunals, but assures that they will be treated well." The Communist Viet Cong already has executed several Americans as reprisal for the execution of terrorists by South Viet Nam.
The Red Cross said it had passed Hanoi's latest protest on to the United States. It said the letter from Hanoi was dated Aug. 30 and that a United States answer has been sent to North Viet Nam.
An American military spokesman in Saigon said that an estimated 58 American flyers now are held in North Viet Nam.
Hanoi's letter was the long-awaited answer to the Red Cross appeal in June that all nations respect the Geneva War Conventions, especially those applying to prisoners and civilians. The United States and South Viet Nam answered the appeal at once.
"The government of Hanoi protests against the air and naval bombing which, it says, is deliberately directed against non-military objectives such as hospitals, schools, villages, etc." the Red Cross said.
"It considers in consequence that enemy pilots taken prisoner are war criminals liable to go before tribunals, but assures that they will be treated well.
"For its part," the Red Cross announcement said, "the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam has already protested several times to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) against the bombing of medical establishments which are clearly marked by Red Cross emblems.
"The Department of State declared in reply that it has received no indication that American aircraft have attacked buildings housing wounded and sick have been touched, it was because they must have been either in or in the immediate proximity of military installations."
The United States pointed out that placing such establishments near or in military installations is contrary to the Red Cross conventions.
It suggested an on-the-spot inquiry by the ICRC, which agreed and notified North Viet Nam of the proposal.
Hanoi in its letter also rejected an earlier ICRC appeal to permit American prisoners to write to their families and to supply a list of such prisoners.
In a radio broadcast Tuesday night, Hanoi repeated its threats to try American pilots shot down over North Viet Nam as criminals under North Vietnamese law.
The broadcast followed a U.S. protest against the Viet Cong's executions last Sunday of two American war prisoners. Washington said it holds Hanoi responsible for treatment of Americans held by the Viet Cong. But Hanoi Radio made no comment about the executions.