The United States played to a hushed Security Council today the tape-recorded voice of a Soviet fighter pilot as he homed in on the ill-fated South Korean jetliner, launched two missiles and then announced that "the target is destroyed."
U.S. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick followed the dramatic presentation by charging that the 10-minute tape excerpt she had played "established that the Soviets decided to shoot down this civilian airliner, shot it down, murdering the 269 persons aboard, and lied about it."
Soviet Ambassador Oleg Troyanovsky, along with the others who followed the U.S. presentation in the jammed council chamber, kept his eyes glued to one of the television monitors set up to show the transcript, in English and Russian, of the spoken words.
He then dismissed the showing as "a provocative spectacle, motivated by anti-Soviet instincts." Troyanovsky made no attempt to challenge the veracity of the recording and did not respond directly to its contents. "There was a gross and obviously preplanned violation of the air space of the Soviet Union," he maintained.
Kirkpatrick, introducing the recording made by the Japanese armed forces, said that it contained the voices of four Soviet pilots "including the Su15 pilot who pulled the trigger which released the missiles that destroyed Korean Air Lines Flight 007" last Thursday.
The United States gave transcripts to all delegates and offered a cassette to interested governments.
The recording itself was virtually inaudible, and the start of the transcript contained trivial and technical details of the pilots announcing their course, confirming their instructions ("I am executing"), and reporting the position of the South Korean airliner, to which they referred only as "the target."
The transcript covers a 50-minute period of elapsed time--about 22 minutes of voice transmissions, and was released here for the first time in its entirety. But only the first half, just over 10 minutes, was played in the council chamber.
On three occasions, the transcript indicates, the Soviets pilots noted that the airliner's strobe lights were flashing. In addition there was one confirmation that its navigational lights were on. Despite this, Troyanovsky in his statement continued to maintain the Soviet position that the jetliner showed no lights.
At 3:21 a.m. Tokyo time--1:21 p.m. EDT--the transcript showed, the Su15 that ultimately fired the missiles told his ground controller: "I'm going in closer. . . . I have already approached the target to a distance of about two kilometers 1 1/4 miles . . . . What are instructions?"
The controller's responses are not on the tape, but the pilot responded: "Roger."
Two minutes later, the transcript showed, the pilot reported "I'm dropping back, now I will try a rocket."
At 3:25, the pilot radioed, "I'm closing in on the target, am in lock-on. Distance to target is eight kilometers five miles . . . . I have already switched it on. . . . Z.G. missile warheads locked on."
At 3:26:20, the pilot reported: "I have executed the launch." Two seconds later he said: "The target is destroyed."
The transcript, Kirkpatrick told the council after the tape ended at that point, demonstrates that the Soviet fighter had the airliner in sight for more than 20 minutes before firing and that, contrary to Soviet statements, the tapes show no reference to the firing of warning shots.
The only indication on the tape of an attempt to contact the airliner is a statement that "the target isn't responding to IFF." Kirkpatrick said, "This means the aircraft did not respond to the electronic interrogation by which military aircraft identify friends or foes (IFF). But, of course, the Korean airliner could not have responded to IFF because commercial aircraft are not equipped to do so."
In remarks that appeared somewhat tougher than President Reagan's television statement last night, she suggested two explanations for the Soviet action.
"One is that it was a mistake--the mistake of a trigger-happy pilot who with his ground controller followed a philosophy of shoot now, identify later," she said. In that case, Kirkpatrick argued that the Soviet cover-up demonstrated that "violence and lies are regular instruments of Soviet policy."
The other possibility she suggested was that the incident "was a deliberate stroke designed to intimidate--a brutal, decisive act meant to instill fear and hesitation in all who observed its ruthless violence."
At a press conference later, Kirkpatrick denied Soviet charges that American reconnaissance planes had "systematically" violated Soviet air space, maintaining that U.S. policy opposes such intrusions.
Asked why no attempts had been made to correct the errant course of the jetliner, Kirkpatrick explained that Japanese air controllers were not aware the pilot had strayed because the only radar covering the area was Soviet radar.
In the transcript of the conversation recorded by Japanese ground control, she said, the pilot gave no indication that he was aware of being followed.
The tape recording of the Soviet pilots could not have been used to alert either the Soviet Union or the Korean plane to the situation, she said, because "no one was monitoring those tapes as they were being recorded."
One Western diplomat called the tapes "convincing and effective," and said that the Soviets "left a lot of questions that must be answered."
But a number of Third World delegates were cautious, insisting that "nothing materially new has been revealed." The representative of Sierra Leone told the council that "a lot of questions remain unanswered" by both the Soviet and U.S. statements.
U.S. officials said they have begun consultations on a resolution. The talks will involve friendly members of the 15-nation council, plus the 12 other countries whose nationals were on board the jetliner.