The United States led a furious chorus of international protest against the Soviet Union today for what it called the "wanton, calculated, deliberate murder" of 269 people aboard the Korean Air Lines passenger jet reportedly shot down Thursday.
Speaking to a tense and crowded session of the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Charles M. Lichenstein, turning occasionally toward the silent Soviet delegate, lambasted Moscow for "an expression of contempt for civilized mankind."
What Lichenstein said was the shooting down of the plane "revealed the true nature of Soviet totalitarianism and the threat it poses to all people--both those living under its yoke and those still free of its domination."
The Soviet Union, the U.S. ambassador said, "had shown its true face, the face that is so often hidden behind its peace offensive, behind the propaganda machine, behind its talk of brotherhood and international solidarity and coexistence.
"It is the face," Lichenstein continued, "of a ruthless totalitarian state, a state which has been responsible over the past six and a half decades for killing more people--between 17 and 18 million--and enslaving more nations than any regime in the history of mankind, a state that tailors its concept of truth to what will advance its own interests, that and nothing else, a state that does not accept responsibility for a minimally decent international order."
Soviet Envoy Richard Ovinnikov, who sat impassively through Lichenstein's address and a less angry opening speech by the South Korean ambassador, expressed regret at the loss of human life involved in the incident but suggested that the airliner was on a "special intelligence mission" and that the United States was indulging in a "propaganda display" designed to portray his country "in a false light."
Ovinnikov's statement paralleled one released by Tass news agency in Moscow, adding that the convening of the Security Council "at the request of the United States" was "totally without grounds, unjustifiable and unnecessary."
The session was in fact convened at the separate requests of the United States, South Korea and Japan, with associated applications by Canada and Australia, said Security Council President Noel G. Sinclair of Guyana.
The hall where the meeting took place, normally used by the U.N. Economic and Social Council, was filled to capacity with delegates, U.N. staff and the few members of the public for whom space remained.
The courteous formalities of the occasion--with each speaker addressing greetings to Sinclair, who yesterday began his first day as president of the Security Council--contrasted with the anger behind the words, especially in Lichenstein's controlled and sarcastic speech.
"The ultimate objective of the Soviet Union," the U.S. delegate said, "is to remake the world in its own image, which necessarily means a world in which it will control the lives of people and the fate of nations as completely and as ruthlessly as it exercises control over its own people, and, I should add, over those who innocently stray into its airspace."
"The route and nature of the flight were not happenstance," said Ovinnikov, still quoting from Tass. "The circumstances surrounding the incident made it justifiable to consider that, under the guise of a civil plane, it might be possible to carry out a special intelligence mission. Those who organized that provocation deliberately tried to further exacerbate the international situation and cast a shadow over Soviet peace-loving policies."
The United States was playing with "categories of morality to attempt to justify a policy of thermonuclear war," Ovinnikov said. "That is the very essence of the calumny against the Soviet Union whch has been dragged out today."
South Korean Ambassador Kyung Won Kim, the first speaker in the session, gave a detailed account of the incident. But his language was notably more restrained than that of the U.S. ambassador.
Kim said South Korea demanded "a full and detailed" Soviet account of what happened, an apology and compensation for the loss of the aircraft and to the families of those killed, punishment for all those responsible "for this most reprehensible and inhuman violence against completely defenseless victims," access to the crash site for South Korean and international representatives and "credible guarantees" against the recurrence of such actions.
Japanese, Canadian, Austrialian, Dutch and British envoys also condemned the Soviet attack but in language notably milder than that of the U.S. representative. By 5:45, 95 minutes after the debate began, Ovinnikov arose, puffing on his pipe, and left through a side door.
The council took no other action in today's session and scheduled consultations on further sessions dealing with the plane incident.