100. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Hill) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Clark)1


  • Transmission of Implementation Strategy for NSDD on the U.S. Response to the Soviet Destruction of the KAL Airliner

We are attaching an implementation strategy for the NSDD on the U.S. response to the Soviet destruction of the KAL airliner.2 Several of the steps have already been taken or are already in process. This study reflects the input of the KAL interagency group and the papers prepared by its working groups which are attached.3 The paper has not been cleared by the IG but it has been distributed to the member [Page 345] agencies. Should we receive substantive comments from them, these will be reported to the NSC staff.

Charles Hill4

Tab 1

Strategy Paper Prepared in the Department of State5

Strategy Paper for Implementation of NSDD on the KAL Incident

The Soviet attack on an unarmed Korean passenger airplane is a clear violation of international law and a threat to international civil aviation security. While the immediate threat is particularly in or near the Soviet Union, the Soviet action raises serious questions regarding the system as a whole. The NSDD defines the measures the United States will take with the international community to promote our objectives of seeking justice, demonstrating resistance to intimidation, and advancing understanding of the contrast between Soviet words and deeds. The strategy for implementing these specific measures including diplomatic, public diplomacy and congressional approaches as developed by the KAL IG follows below. Also described are issues for future decision. The detailed papers prepared by the various IG working groups are attached at the annex.

The NSDD sets out specific actions for seeking justice in five areas:

1. Full Accounting. Even though the Soviets have now admitted downing the KAL aircraft, our most immediate requirement remains pressing the Soviets for a full accounting of the incident, including access to the crash site, recovery of the victims, technical equipment (black box), wreckage and other material such as personal property and a thorough and impartial investigation of what happened. We have already made these demands forcefully, both in diplomatic channels and publicly. Secretary Shultz will be making these points at the highest level with Foreign Minister Gromyko in Madrid on September 8 and the issue will be pursued through vigorous intervention in the appropriate international organizations.

2. Develop Omnibus U.S. Claim. A draft United States claim for reparation, in the form of a diplomatic note, has been prepared and [Page 346] circulated to other interested governments whose nationals perished in the tragedy, with a request that they take similar action. The note is a concise statement that we consider the Soviet action as wrongful under international law, giving rise to a Soviet obligation to make reparation. After responses from other governments, we will present the Soviet Chargé with the diplomatic note on September 12.6 This claim will be supplemented with details and documentation after consultations with the families of the victims. We have invited those family members who will be in Washington for the memorial service to a briefing on the claim at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 9.

3. Measures Against Aeroflot. The NSDD calls for the United States to work with and help to lead other members of the international community in formulating and implementing measures that will “adversely affect” Aeroflot’s operations. Unilaterally, we have already:

—reiterated the existing sanction suspending regularly-scheduled Aeroflot service to the U.S.;

—notified the Soviets we will not renew our bilateral transportation cooperation agreement, nor proceed with discussions on consulates in Kiev and New York and on a new cultural exchanges agreement;

—the Department of State is sending a letter for the President’s signature requesting the CAB to initiate action to suspend relations between U.S. carriers and Aeroflot as well as Aeroflot’s remaining commercial activities in the United States;

—begun to undertake the necessary steps prior to informing the Soviets of the closure of the Aeroflot offices in New York and Washington.

Multilaterally, we are seeking the isolation of the Soviet Union in world aviation until it provides a satisfactory response to our collective concerns for aviation safety. Specifically we have proposed that for an initial period of 60–90 days:

—that other governments suspend Aeroflot’s operations to and from their territories;

—that they suspend interline arrangements between their respective carriers and Aeroflot, and other commercial opportunities for Aeroflot, such as sale of tickets;

—that they investigate other possible restrictions on support services.

A crucial ingredient in this strategy is that the U.S. not be seen to be ahead in its reaction and that it consult fully with its friends and allies in developing a coordinated, coherent and sustained international [Page 347] reaction. Thus, while we should continue to discuss our proposed measures publicly in general terms, we should continue now to avoid specifics so that the ongoing consultative process can reach agreement on specific steps. We are urging the key European countries to coordinate their actions and not undercut one another.

The key element in the diplomatic strategy is Secretary Shultz’ participation at the Madrid conference, where he will have intense consultations with five of the countries (Italy, FRG, France, U.K. and Canada) whose cooperation is essential. Japan, not present in Madrid, will be handled bilaterally. His speech to the CSCE plenary on September 9 will include a full statement of U.S. condemnation and the implications for East-West relations. We have encouraged other ministers to do the same, and the response has been excellent.

Multilaterally, the NATO Allies, Japan, Korea, ASEAN, ANZUS and other key countries of Europe and the third world have been briefed in Washington. This approach has been reinforced in capitals. We have forwarded to the White House letters from the President to the heads of government of the U.K., FRG, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Canada. Letters are under preparation to other leaders, including France, Italy, Ireland and Australia. Secretary Dole has sent messages to her counterparts in the key ICAO Council member countries to ask their support in ICAO, and also in adopting the proposed civil aviation measures against Aeroflot.

Our top priority will be to monitor this diplomatic offensive and apply the necessary measures to follow up the NSDD.

4. Private boycott. A worldwide aviation industry response would help isolate Soviet aviation and promote a satisfactory Soviet response to aviation safety concerns. The decision by the International Federation of Airline Pilot’s Associations to institute a 60-day boycott of flights to and from the USSR is very encouraging. To be effective, any boycott must remain a private, not a USG, initiative. Our strategy should be to maintain contact with U.S. pilot and other groups through one or two key representatives to keep up to date on actions being taken by the aviation industry. We will use these contacts to give them a signal: that we favor all efforts consistent with U.S. law and policy to isolate Soviet aviation in order to elicit satisfactory Soviet response to the case and the safety concerns it raises.

5. International Organizations. We will sustain the efforts to obtain appropriate action in appropriate international organizations. Our objectives are the broadest condemnation of the Soviet Union, an investigation, and remedial actions to enhance flight safety and prevent a recurrence of this tragedy. Tactically, we should keep Japan, Korea and others in front while mobilizing broad support for constructive remedies. Specifically, in the international organizations, we should:

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—seek a strong resolution at the September 15 ICAO Council meeting, in which we would seek to condemn this Soviet violation of international law, express shock and outrage at the Soviet Union’s callous disregard for human life and its refusal to cooperate in search and rescue as well as investigation efforts, and direct the ICAO Secretary-General to conduct an immediate investigation. We have the votes for a resolution along such lines;

—seek a tough UNSC resolution equally critical of the USSR, but not as detailed as the ICAO resolution seeking many cosponsors;

—seek no emergency special session of the General Assembly, but seek a new agenda item for the plenary, or as a second choice, committee consideration. We will raise the issue under existing agenda items in committees, consulting with allied and friendly delegations;

—work for a good resolution at the New Delhi conference of the World Tourism Organization in early October;

—raise the issue in the UNESCO Executive Board, IPU and Subcommission on Human Rights.

International Court of Justice direct adversary proceedings would have only symbolic value since the Soviets have not accepted the ICJ’s mandatory jurisdiction. We may, however, wish to demand that the Soviets enter into a special agreement with us for referral of this case to Court if only to have the Soviets publicly reject impartial scrutiny of their action. An advisory opinion proceeding is also possible but has many disadvantages for USG interests.

Demonstrate and Encourage Resistance to Soviet Intimidation

The NSDD cites the objective of bolstering the confidence of our Asian friends. Central to any effort to support NE Asian nations in their resistance to Soviet intimidation will be the necessity to demonstrate consistency and steadiness in U.S. diplomatic policies and security presence within the region. In large part, this would represent a continuation of policies and programs already in train, though these could be highlighted as locally appropriate by specific U.S. statements and actions. We should bear in mind, however, that regional anti-Soviet sentiment could be undercut by too explicit or vigorous U.S. encouragement.

—A basic theme of the President’s visit to the East Asian region later this fall will be a reaffirmation of the American commitment to the peace and stability of the region. The KAL incident will inevitably increase the force and importance of the President’s statements.

—In Japan, we must continue close consultations with the GOJ—both on immediate questions related to the KAL incident as well on the longer-term coordination of our national policies towards the Soviet Union, letting the Nakasone government take the lead in any capitalizing on domestic anti-Soviet feelings.

—With the PRC, we should follow through with the Secretary of Defense’s visit and the easing of technology transfer requirements, but, [Page 349] given China’s own strong condemnation, we do not need to underscore for Beijing the implications of Soviet behaviour in the KAL incident.

—With the ROK, our short-term requirement will be to continue close consultations with Seoul, while over the longer-term we will need to provide continuing assurances of the firmness of our security commitment, including our readiness to support Korea’s considerable defense efforts and our intention to maintain the U.S. troop presence in Korea.

Confidence-Building Measures.

Since the KAL incident was one in which improved communications channels could well have been used, we should:

—Renew through diplomatic channels at a high-level our proposals to the Soviets for consideration at a Washington follow-on meeting of communications improvements beyond solely the Hotline upgrade; and

—Simultaneously publicize our call to the Soviets for expanded communications for the prevention of such incidents, specifically citing the KAL tragedy, underscoring the U.S. flexibility in exploring various proposals, and noting previous Soviet assertions that such measures were unnecessary.

Public Diplomacy. In addition to the extensive media coverage and public affairs support for the U.S. position given to date by USIA, the Agency plans several steps in the immediate future:

VOA will maintain an intensified broadcast schedule to the Soviet Union in several languages;

—the incident will continue to be a prominent item for all VOA language services;

—public affairs guidances reflecting and supporting Administration policy have been and will be sent to USIA posts;

—Agency foreign press centers in Washington and New York will continue to arrange interviews, press backgrounders, or on-the-record briefings for the foreign press on the incident.

—We must bear in mind the sensitivities and perceptions of our Asian allies, particularly Japan. This should include consultation with our allies, not only to keep them informed, but to offer an opportunity for them to join in our efforts.

Congressional Strategy. We are working on a draft text of a joint Congressional resolution. We do not anticipate any difficulty in passage when Congress returns September 12. The effort already begun to keep Congress fully informed through briefings will continue, but with an expanded focus to include those committees of both Houses dealing with tourism and aviation as well as foreign affairs, armed services, and intelligence. The State Department is continuing its briefings of key staffers prior to the reconvening of Congress. Once Congress reconvenes on September 12, we will offer formal briefings for members on the event itself and on the actions we are taking and considering.

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Outstanding Issues. The KAL IG has surfaced two issues for future decisions:

1. Abrogation of the bilateral US-USSR Civil Aviation Agreement. Those who argue for abrogation believe it is a small but necessary step to demonstrate our revulsion, particularly in view of the actions we are asking other countries to take. Further, if the U.S. ever decides to initiate service, termination of the bilateral would not pose a further substantial obstacle to restoring service. Others prefer to keep the Agreement in place as a basis for reestablishing a more normal civair relationship if conditions should permit. These argue that abrogation could be portrayed as going farther than other countries (those that suspended operations temporarily, for example) and could be used as an indication that the U.S. was intent upon a confrontation with the USSR.

2. Whether a subsequent CAB order should suspend a) relations of foreign carriers with Aeroflot, even within the U.S. or b) carrier relations with Aeroflot wholly outside the territory of the U.S. Some argue that we should refrain from any punitive action against foreign carriers at least as long as there is some basis to hope that these carriers, or their national governments, will take these actions on their own. Such action at this point could seriously compromise our chances of obtaining the cooperation of our key Allies in measures against Aeroflot. Others believe that this is a necessary step, and that failure to face it would make us look weak.

Future Action. The NSDD states that the duration of punitive action is dependent upon Soviet willingness “to honor essential standards of aviation safety,” and directs work to achieve censure in ICAO “with reinforcing measures at ICAO to be pursued.” We are now examining existing ICAO commitments to determine how they can be strengthened, and develop appropriate recommendations. If the existing measures are adequate and the problem is enforcement, we should also examine whether it is in our interest to propose new arrangements providing for international punitive sanctions in the event a state fails to meet its obligations under the existing Convention.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Robert Lilac Files, Arms Transfer, Subject File/1981–84, AT (Arms Transfers): [Korean Airlines] KAL [09/10/1983]; NLR–332–14–35–1–4. Secret. A covering memorandum dated September 10 to Clark from Lilac and Robinson indicates the NSC received this set of papers.
  2. See NSDD 102, Document 95.
  3. Attached but not printed are the following papers, which were also incorporated into the strategy paper: “Private Boycott of Soviet Aviation;” “Claims;” “10 Strategies for Dealing with the KAL Incident;” “Isolation of the Soviet Union in Aviation (A Strategy for the U.S.);” a memorandum on “Strategy for Dealing with Congress on the KAL Incident;” “USIA Public Affairs Followup regarding the KAL Plane Incident;” and “Proposed Public Posture and International Public Diplomacy Strategy.”
  4. Deputy Executive Secretary Covey signed for Hill above Hill’s typed signature.
  5. Secret.
  6. Acting Assistant Secretary of State Kelly presented the note to Sokolov on September 12. For the statement issued at the time and the note, as well as a note presented on behalf of the Korean Government, see the Department of State Bulletin, October 1983, pp. 14–15.