CHINA roared once again into Dong Dang on Vietnam's northeast border yesterday, but this time it was the blaring horn of a large train rather than rockets and tanks. As the siren echoed around the scarred limestone outcrops, many older peasants cast their minds back to the bloody, but brief, hostilities nearly 17 years ago. 'Please let them come in peace,' said Ngoc Thai Dzung, 79. 'Dong Dang is small and innocent. It can't take any more.' Bombed over the past 50 years by the Japanese, French and Americans, the tiny border town was levelled by Chinese soldiers seeking revenge as Deng Xiaoping aborted his invasion in 1979. Now, as legal and illicit border trades bring a new prosperity to the village, its hills and peaks remain barren and lifeless. Few are more stark than the shattered remains of old French-built battlements that tower over the new railway station, built especially for the business yesterday's ceremonies will bring. Here, on what was called the 'French castle', locals claim more than 100 Vietnamese soldiers were killed instantly in explosions set by retreating Chinese troops. They were among an estimated 30,000 who died in less than three weeks of fighting designed as punishment for Vietnam's takeover of Pol Pot's Cambodia. As suited Beijing officials climbed down from their carriages yesterday, waving flowers and bear-hugging each other, the town's old peasants looked beyond them to the blackened peak where only pigs and goats now roam. Others continued the town's new work, lugging Chinese products to nearby markets. 'It's a new world now,' an elderly man said. 'Many of us are learning Mandarin to speak in the markets. There is money on the other side.'