92. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

252822. Eyes Only for Chargé. Subject: Eagleburger-Sokolov Meeting September 2: Korean Airliner Incident; Lebanon.

1. S—Entire text

2. Summary: Soviet Chargé Sokolov called on Under Secretary Eagleburger September 2 to deliver Soviet démarche on Korean airliner incident. Démarche is substantively identical to TASS statement released earlier in the day (minus direct personal attack on President), alleging airliner was on pre-planned, U.S.-sponsored espionage mission and accusing U.S. of “dirty insinuations” about Soviet Union.2 In response, Eagleburger handed Sokolov copy of statement made by the Secretary prior to the meeting rejecting substance of TASS statement.3 In response to question from Burt, Sokolov said he had no reply to U.S. request concerning search and rescue operations in Sea of Japan. Eagleburger also used meeting as opportunity to deliver démarche on Lebanon situation condemning August 31 TASS statement and unconstructive Soviet behavior in area. Sokolov rejected U.S. characterization of USSR and its behavior and stood by TASS statement. End summary.

3. Soviet Chargé Sokolov called on Under Secretary Eagleburger at 1800 September 2 at his request to present a Soviet oral statement on the KAL shootdown. Eagleburger was accompanied by EUR Assistant Secretary Burt, EUR/SOV Director Simons and Eagleburger aide Johnson; Sokolov was alone.

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4. Sokolov began by saying he assumed Eagleburger had read that afternoon’s TASS statement, but he was instructed to make an “oral statement” which repeated some of the TASS elements but was not confined to them. He drew Eagleburger’s attention especially to the last paragraph, and left a Russian text with an unofficial embassy English translation (Department’s translation below, para 9).

5. After reading through the Soviet statement, Eagleburger commented that we had indeed seen the TASS statement, and handed Sokolov a copy of the Secretary’s remarks to the press at 1745 (septel). Sokolov said he would study it. Eagleburger said we would make the White House aware of the Soviet statement.

6. Eagleburger then said he would like to switch subjects, and provided Sokolov with the text of a U.S. démarche on the situation in Lebanon (text in para 10).

7. After glancing through the text, Sokolov said he would reiterate the substance of the August 31 TASS statement on this subject. In the Soviet view it accurately describes both the situation and the actions of the various parties. He could not accept our characterization of the Soviet Union or Soviet behavior. The Soviet position was well known, and he did not have to repeat its details.

8. Burt asked Sokolov whether he had a reply to our request concerning search and rescue efforts involving the KAL aircraft. Sokolov said the Embassy has received only some coordinates for planes flying September 2, and had not received a reply to our request.

9. Begin text of Soviet démarche on Korean airliner incident (Department’s translation):

—On the night from August 31 to September 1 of this year, an unidentified plane grossly violated the Soviet state border and intruded deep into the Soviet Union’s air space. The intruder plane had deviated from the existing international route in the direction of the Soviet Union’s territory by up to 500 kilometers and spent more than two hours over the Kamchatka Peninsula, the area of the Sea of Okhotsk, and the island of Sakhalin.

—In violation of international regulations, the plane flew without navigation lights, did not react to radio signals of the Soviet dispatcher services, and itself made no attempts to establish communication contact.

—It was natural that, during the time the unidentified intruder plane was in the USSR’s air space, Soviet anti-air defense aircraft were ordered aloft which repeatedly tried to establish contact with the plane using generally accepted signals and to take it to the nearest airfield in the territory of the Soviet Union. The intruder plane, however, ignored all this. Over Sakhalin Island, a Soviet aircraft fired warning shots with tracer shells along the flight path of the plane.

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—Soon after this, the intruder plane left the limits of Soviet air space and continued its flight toward the Sea of Japan. For about ten minutes it was within the observation zone of radar systems, after which it could no longer be observed.

—The American side has already been informed that, as a result of measures we had taken, debris of an aircraft were discovered in the vicinity of Moneron Island. The facts which became known thereafter give ground to believe that the itinerary and the nature of the flight were not accidental. One’s attention is drawn to the fact that already in the first report about the disappearance of a South Korean airliner, reference was made to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

—It is indicative that now, after the fact, the American side not only officially admits the fact of that plane’s violation of Soviet air space, but also cites data which indicate that the relevant U.S. services followed the flight throughout its duration in the most attentive manner.

—So one may ask that, if it were an ordinary flight of a civil aircraft which was under continuing observation, then why were no steps taken by the American side to end the gross violation of the air space of the USSR and to get the plane back to an international flight route?

—Why did the American authorities, which now resort to all kinds of dirty insinuations about the USSR, not try to establish contact with the Soviet side and provide it with the necessary data about this flight? Neither was done, although the time for this was more than sufficient.

—It is appropriate to recall that instances of deliberate violation of the state frontiers of the Soviet Union by American planes, including in the Far East, are far from rare. Protests have repeatedly been lodged with the U.S. Government in this regard.

—In the light of these facts, the intrusion into the air space by the mentioned plane cannot be regarded in any other way than a pre-planned act. It was obviously thought possible to achieve special intelligence objectives without hindrance using civilian planes as a cover.

—Moreover, there is reason to believe that those who organized this provocation had deliberately desired a further aggravation of the international situation, striving to smear the Soviet Union, to sow hostility to it and to cast aspersions on the Soviet peaceloving policy. This is also illustrated by the slanderous propaganda campaign which has been unleashed in the United States and which has been joined by American officials.

—The Soviet Union, as is known, has expressed regret over the loss of human life and at the same time has resolutely condemned those who consciously or as a result of criminal disregard have allowed the death of people and are now trying to use this occurrence for unseemly political purposes.

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—It should be clear to the U.S. Government that continuation by them of a policy aimed at whipping up further tensions in Soviet-American relations and in the world as a whole neither would be in the interests of our two countries, nor would it help resolve the major problems which really exist.

[Omitted here is the text of the démarche on Lebanon.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, N830008–0162. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Stadis. Drafted by Simons; cleared by Palmer, Burt, McKinley, and in S/S–O; approved by Eagleburger.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 89.
  3. Shultz issued a statement at 5:45 p.m. on September 2 to rebut the TASS statement. (Department of State Bulletin, October 1983, p. 5) See also Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, p. 364.