230. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State 1

2604. 1. Following is our translation of Kosygin’s reply to President’s message.2

2. Begin text. Dear Mr. President: I have received the text of your message which was handed by Ambassador L. Thompson to our Minister of Foreign Affairs on January 26, 1968, concerning the incident involving the American naval intelligence vessel Pueblo near the shores of the Korean People’s Democratic Republic.

3. Allow me to say with the utmost directness that we cannot share the interpretation of events which is presented by the American side. Information available to us attests to the fact that the American naval intelligence vessel Pueblo was detained by Korean authorities not in international waters but in the territorial waters of the KPDR while carrying out certain intelligence operations. This is the main thing, it is here where the entire essence of the affair lies, and therefore the responsibility for the incident falls entirely on the American military command, which acted contrary to the generally accepted norms of international law protecting the inviolability of the territories of states and their territorial waters.

4. But since this is so, it is the US which must take steps to find ways of settling the incident and, in any event, not do anything that could add fuel to the fire. You yourself expressed in your message the conviction that the interests of preserving universal peace would not be served by increased tension in that area.

5. However, how can this be reconciled with the fact that during the past few days in the US the situation is being heated up, irresponsible voices calling for a “return strike” against the KPDR and calls for the use of arms and force are being heard? Those who make such statements are apparently little concerned about what all this can lead to.

6. How the American military look at the principles of international law, and in particular the principle of the freedom of navigation, is well known, if only by the fact that US military aircraft are buzzing [Page 534] systematically Soviet and other vessels on the high seas. We have repeatedly drawn the attention of the US Government to the fact that this is fraught with the possibility of military incidents, but the buzzing operations have continued to this day. Recently even more serious cases have taken place where American aircraft subjected Soviet merchant vessels to bombing and strafing. And, incidentally, a very calm attitude, to put it mildly was then demonstrated in the US with respect to these facts, although they involved human losses and major material damage.

7. But now, when an American naval vessel has been detained because it penetrated foreign territorial waters, a noisy campaign is being developed in the US, which, judging by everything, has the support of the American Government. Otherwise, how can one understand the report that a Seventh Fleet detachment consisting of the nuclear carrier Enterprise, destroyers and other vessels has been ordered to move in the direction of the KPDR?

8. The Soviet Government believes that in connection with the incident which has arisen near the KPDR coast, it is most important to analyze the situation soberly and not to succumb to emotions which can lead one to where perhaps he does not even intend to go.

9. You, Mr. President, have expressed a desire that the Soviet Government respond to your anxiety in connection with this incident. In our view, the shortest and the most reliable way for settling it is not to allow precipitous actions, and this would create a more favorable atmosphere.

10. We are convinced that the promptest possible settlement of the situation would be in the interest of all sides. Such settlement must be based, of course on complete respect for the sovereignty and independence of the Korean People’s Democratic Republic. Any attempts to apply methods of pressure with respect to the KPDR can only complicate the possibilities for a settlement.

11. We have informed the Government of the Korean People’s Democratic Republic of your message.

12. Respectfully, A. Kosygin. January 27, 1968. End text.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6 KOR N–US. Top Secret; Flash, Nodis. Received on January 27 at 10:50 a.m.
  2. The reply was given to Thompson by Gromyko, who dismissed the veracity of U.S. military statements declaring the Pueblo was in international waters when captured and cautioned that U.S. threats to North Korea could be counterproductive. (Telegram 2605 from Moscow, January 27; ibid.)