95. National Security Decision Directive 1021



This directive defines the measures the United States will undertake to respond to the Soviet Union’s shooting down of a Korean Airlines civil airliner, an act that resulted in the loss of 269 lives. This action demands a serious international and U.S. response, with primary focus on action by the world community. This Soviet attack underscores once again the refusal of the USSR to abide by normal standards of civilized behavior and thus confirms the basis of our existing policy of realism and strength. (U)


Seek Justice. We must consult with, and help to lead, the international community in calling for justice. Civilized societies demand punishment and restitution to deter, and raise the costs of, future egregious acts. We have a responsibility to impress upon the world that the Soviets, at a minimum, owe the international community:

—A full account of what happened, an apology, an admission of responsibility, and appropriate punishments to those responsible. (U)

—Immediate access to the crash site for joint efforts by Korea, Japan, and the United States to recover the bodies of their citizens and, if possible, the wreckage of the Korean airliner. (U)

—Firm assurances that the USSR will not use destructive force against unarmed aircraft in the future, including necessary alterations in Soviet procedures for handling cases in which aircraft mistakenly cross its airspace. (U)

—Agreement to provide compensation for the benefit of the aggrieved families and KAL. (U)

Demonstrate Resistance to Intimidation. Bolster the confidence of our Asian friends, and others, and demonstrate that Soviet intimidation will not achieve its intended end of discouraging our friends from cooperating with us, particularly on mutual security concerns. (S)

[Page 327]

Advance Understanding of the Contrast Between Soviet Words and Deeds. Soviet brutality in this incident presents an opportunity to reverse the false moral and political “peacemaker” perception that their regime has been cultivating. This image has complicated the efforts of the Free World to illuminate the USSR’s true objectives. (U)


In order to realize the objectives above, the United States will take the following bilateral and multilateral actions in the areas of diplomacy, aviation security and safety, and regional confidence building:

Diplomacy and Justice. The following steps should be continued or undertaken immediately to mobilize the international community:

—Conduct intensive efforts to secure coordinated international action. (U)

—Seek maximum condemnation of the Soviet Union in the U.N. Security Council and provide wide dissemination of statements made in these sessions. (U)

—Announce that the US-Soviet Transportation Agreement will not be renewed and suspend all discussion on the issue of consulates in Kiev and New York and on a new exchanges agreement. (U)

—Continue to conduct a search in international waters, in consultation with Japan and Korea, for the remains of the aircraft. Assure the government of Korea that we will vigorously support their request to conduct, participate in, or observe salvage operations. Indicate our clear willingness and desire to assist the government of Korea in recovering the bodies and flight recorder as appropriate and in accord with international law. (U)

—Make joint request with the government of Japan for Soviet authorization for access to Soviet territorial waters and airspace to search for remains of the downed aircraft. (U)

—Initiate a major public diplomatic effort to keep international and domestic attention focused on the Soviet action and the objectives outlined above. (U)

Aviation Safety and Security. The United States will work with—and help to lead—other members of the international community in formulating and implementing measures that will adversely affect the operation of the Soviet national airline, Aeroflot. The United States will also focus immediate attention on measures to enhance airline safety and security, while vigorously pursuing recovery efforts and the issue of reparations. Accordingly, we will:

—Seek international governmental support for punitive actions in the civil aviation area for a period to be determined, with duration dependent upon the extent to which the Soviets demonstrate a willingness to honor essential standards of aviation safety. If the Soviets fail to provide concrete reasons to show that they are truly willing to observe such standards, we will consult with other nations about renewing the measures. (S)

[Page 328]

—Specifically seek immediate agreement by as many countries as possible to stop Aeroflot flights into their countries, to cancel interline ticketing arrangements, and to take other possible measures to inhibit Aeroflot operations. We should especially seek Canada’s and Japan’s support for these and other possible sanctions against Aeroflot. We will avoid any actions that could affect the safety of international civilian aviation. (S)

—Support appropriate measures against Aeroflot by U.S. and international non-government groups, in their efforts to isolate Soviet aviation. Consult with other governments to further this objective. (S)

—Work to suspend non-safety related discussions between the USSR and other national civil aviation bodies. (S)

—Work to achieve a meaningful censure of the Soviet Union at a special meeting of ICAO Council, with reinforcing measures at ICAO to be pursued.2 (S)

—Develop an omnibus U.S. claim against the Soviet Union for compensation for the loss of life and property. Offer to present to the USSR similar claims on behalf of the Korean victims. Also coordinate claims with the governments of other countries with citizens on the aircraft to dramatize the USSR’s responsibility for its actions. (U)

—Reaffirm the existing U.S. sanctions against Aeroflot that predate the Soviet attack on KAL. (U)


—Recognize that this act occurs in a theater where the Soviets have increasingly sought to intimidate our friends and discourage them from expanding security cooperation with the United States. (S)

—Continue to consult actively with our Asian friends to develop measures we can take to further bolster their confidence. Provide tangible signals to the Soviets through this allied cooperation that the USSR’s campaign of intimidation will only accelerate, not retard, our support for friends. (S)

—Actions taken to advance this objective need not be directly linked to the aircraft tragedy, but should stand as a quiet, independent signal to the Soviets of our resolve to resist their intimidation. (S)


The Secretary of State, in concert with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Transportation, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Chairman of the JCS, the Director of USIA, and the Administrator of the FAA, will develop a coordinated action plan to implement the provisions of this Directive. This plan should include a legislative, public affairs, and diplomatic strategy and [Page 329] be forwarded to the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs by Wednesday, September 7, 1983.3 (U)

Under the direction of the Secretary of State, an interagency group will continue to evaluate and explore additional possibilities for international and U.S. actions consistent with this Directive. The first report on this continuing effort should be forwarded to the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs by September 14, 1983. (U)

Ronald Reagan
  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC National Security Decision Directives, NSDD 102, U.S. Response to Soviet Destruction of KAL Airliner. Secret. On September 6, Clark sent the signed NSDD to Shultz, Weinberger, Casey, Kirkpatrick, Vessey, Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole, Wick, and Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration J. Lynn Helms. (Reagan Library, Jack Matlock Files, Chronological File, 1980–1986, Matlock Chron November 1983 (2/4))
  2. The International Civil Aviation Organization Council met September 15–16. See footnote 2, Document 112.
  3. See Document 100.