99. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Eagleburger to President Reagan1


  • Developments on Korean Airlines Incident

Today’s major development in the Korean Airlines incident was the Soviet announcement acknowledging for the first time that they had downed KAL 007, but reiterating in stronger terms their now [Page 343] familiar claims regarding U.S. responsibility for this action.2 I issued a statement at 6:00 p.m. refuting the Soviet claims,3 and Acting Assistant Secretary Kelly then called in Soviet Charge Sokolov to deliver formally the text of our message.4 We believe that this prompt, public U.S. rejection of Soviet claims will enable us to maintain the initiative in the continuing public affairs struggle.

On the diplomatic front, we are sending separately for your approval messages to Thatcher, Kohl, Nakasone and other key leaders asking their support for your proposals. Department officers called in today Embassy officers representing European neutrals and a group of key African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries to request their support for your proposals.5 Although noncommittal, the Embassy representatives were generally positive. The reactions to Assistant Secretary Burt’s September 5 briefing of NATO, ANZUS, Japan, Korea and other Asian Embassies6 have not yet begun to come in, except for a call from the French Embassy reporting that France would support us in efforts to strengthen ICAO. On the non-official side, the reported decision by the International Association of Airline Pilots’ Associations to recommend a boycott of services to and from the USSR by its member unions for period of 60 days was a most encouraging development.

Ambassador Kirkpatrick’s presentation in the Security Council today was most effective, and we continue to receive considerable [Page 344] support in the Council from other countries.7 The debate will continue through the end of this week. There seems to be a good likelihood that a resolution, which may be tabled tomorrow, could receive the nine votes needed for passage (though a Soviet veto will doubtless be cast). I am working with CAB Chairman McKinnon on a directive to US carriers ending interline arrangements with Aeroflot. We have initiated the steps required to close the remaining two Aeroflot offices in the United States. Secretary Dole has sent a message to her counterparts in more than forty countries requesting their support for our efforts, particularly in ICAO.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, John Lenczowski Files, NSC Files, Chron File September 1983; NLR–324–11–25–2–0. Confidential. A note on the routing slip indicates that Poindexter presented this information to Reagan during his daily briefing on September 7.
  2. The Soviet statement claimed: “The Soviet pilots, in stopping the actions of the intruder plane, could not have known that it was a civilian aircraft.” The statement continued: “It was flying without navigation lights, at the height of night, in conditions of bad visibility and was not answering signals.” The statement also “charged that the airliner had been on a spying mission for the United States and that ‘the entire responsibility for this tragedy rests wholly and fully with the leaders of the United States of America.’” (John F. Burns, “Moscow Concedes A Soviet Fighter Downed Airliner, New York Times, September 7, 1983, p. A1) The full text of the September 6 statement by the Soviet government is available in New York Times, September 7, 1983, p. A1.
  3. For the text of Eagleburger’s statement, see the Department of State Bulletin, October 1983, p. 11.
  4. In telegram 253973 to Moscow, September 7, the Department reported that “Kelly called in Soviet Chargé Oleg Sokolov at 1930 EDT to hand over a copy of public statement made earlier in evening by Acting Secretary Eagleburger.” The report continued: “Kelly reiterated continuing U.S. dismay with unresponsive nature of Soviet statements and emphasized need for Soviet Union to make full accounting of incident.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D830513–0934)
  5. Telegram 254088 to all diplomatic posts, September 7, provided “materials for briefing foreign governments on Soviet destruction of Korean airliner, U.S. actions taken in response, and U.S.-proposed international measures for responding to Soviet actions.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, [no D number])
  6. Telegram 253010 to multiple diplomatic posts and all NATO capitals, September 6, reported on Burt’s briefings and efforts to garner international support for U.S.-proposed measures against the Soviets. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D830511–0516)
  7. For the text of Kirkpatrick’s statement, see the Department of State Bulletin, October 1983, pp. 8–11.