101. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Shultz in Madrid1

Tosec 90120/254963. Subject: Soviet Statement on KAL Airliner.

1. (C—Entire text.)

2. Shortly after midnight Washington time Soviet Embassy DCM called Acting Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Kelly at home. DCM Sokolov stated that he was under instructions to deliver immediately an oral statement from the Soviet Government to the USG “in conjunction with Soviet statement issued September 6.”2 Sokolov continued that Ambassador Dobrynin who arrived Washington evening September 7 had advised him statement would be coming and he was to deliver regardless of hour.

3. Sokolov began to read statement reported below over phone. After several minutes Kelly interrupted and told Sokolov to meet him at Department. Sokolov arrived at 1:00 am at Department and read text which follows.

4. Following Sokolov’s rendition, Kelly responded, asking Sokolov to inform Moscow. Kelly said that any blackening of Soviet name occurred when Soviet authorities shot down an innocent unarmed Korean airliner which had strayed off course. Kelly rejected allegations in Soviet statement, emphasizing rejection that USG had had a role in the Korean airliner flight. As to the questions presented in the Soviet statement, Kelly said that the [garble—answers] are contained in the tape which Ambassador Kirkpatrick played on September 6 at the United Nations. Those tapes demonstrated clearly the culpability of the Soviet Government in this atrocity. Sokolov said that he would relay Kelly’s comments to Moscow.

5. Begin text of Soviet statement: The facts set forth in the published statement of the Soviet Government of September 6, clearly indicate that the intrusion of the South Korean plane into the Soviet airspace in the Far East on the night from August 31 to September 1 has been organized by U.S. special services. This is confirmed also by other information in our possession, but we do not intend to make it public through reasons of secrecy.

[Page 352]

There is no doubt that it was a major intelligence operation executed in a strategically important region of the Soviet Union, with the use for such purposes of the specially equipped plane with passengers aboard.

The fact that it is not for the first time that the U.S. intelligence does use South Korean passenger planes for its dirty aims, is not a secret at all. That inhumane practice has more than once led to the death of innocent people.

The U.S. leadership, irrespective of whether or not it is informed in advance of each of these actions, bears full responsibility for such barbaric practices and its tragic consequences.

As for this particular case, the entire ensuing development of events leaves no doubt that U.S. special services acted with the knowledge and approval of the highest authorities.

Otherwise a whole number of (word indistinct) could not have occurred without the approval of U.S. leadership:

Why did the South Korean plane, going from the U.S., soon deviate from the established international route by almost 500 kilometers, and not to the left at that—that is toward the open but to the right—in the direction of the USSR territory?

Why was the route of that plane over the USSR territory going precisely over the important military installations?

Why was the plane flying in violation of all navigation rules and did not react to the attempts of the Soviet air defense means—both ground ones and air ones—to make contact with its crew?

Why didn’t the U.S. air navigation services, tracking the flights of planes in the area of their responsibility, not sound alarm when the plane left the corridor earmarked for it, and the plane went into the Soviet territory?

Why didn’t the Japanese air navigation services do the same when the plane did not appear in due time and place in the area of their responsibility?

Why didn’t either the U.S. or Japanese authorities come into contact with the Soviet side until it was too late?

Instead of asking oneselves all these and many other questions and find those responsible of such “strange” happenings, which led to the tragic consequences, the U.S. leaders, including the President himself, immediately came out with quite unpardonable, unbecoming of statesman, insinuations against the Soviet Union, trying to blacken it in the eyes of world public.

To say nothing of the fact that it is impermissible in general for statesmen of one state to resort to such statements—both in terms of their contents, and language—with regard to another state with which diplomatic relations are maintained, it is quite clear that all this is in [Page 353] gross contradiction with the statements of the U.S. leadership regarding its desire for the normalization and bettering of relations with the USSR.

Moreover this type of behavior of the U.S. administration gives ground to believe that, taking into account the kind of outcome of intelligence operation which [garble—really?] occurred, the administration had planned it beforehand and then unleashed a broad provocative campaign aimed not only at blackening the USSR, but also at bringing tensions in the world at large even higher. In conjunction with other actions of the U.S., the anti-Soviet campaign unleashed, clearly tells that all that is being done to try to justify the militaristic course pursued by the U.S. which evokes an ever greater condemnation and rebuff on the part of the peoples of the world.

The Soviet side, while resolutely and indignantly rejecting the attempts of the U.S. Government to relieve itself of the responsibility of the deaths of the people flying aboard the South Korean plane, and to shift that responsibility onto the Soviet Union, warns the American side against dangerous consequences of continuation by the United States of its present irresponsible course in the relations with the USSR and in the world arena in general. End text.

6. Above text is from Sokolov’s personal longhand translation from Russian. Sokolov said Soviets do not plan to make this statement public.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D830516–1096. Confidential; Flash; Exdis. Sent for information Immediate to Moscow, Seoul, Tokyo, the White House, and USUN. Drafted and approved by Kelly. Cleared in S/S–O and the KAL Working Group.
  2. See Document 98.