North Korea Blew Up KAL Aircraft in 1987, Says Ex-U.S. Envoy in Seoul

    July 16, 2004 22:30

    North Korea blew up Korean Air Lines flight 858 in 1987, on account of which the United States included North Korea into the list of terror-sponsoring countries, James Lilley, 76, the former American ambassador in Seoul, disclosed Thursday.

    Lilley made the remarks in an address he delivered at a ceremony commemorating the publication of his memoir "China Hands" held at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. The incident prompted the United States to initiate support for security at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, he said.

    After Seoul had been chosen as the Olympics venue, Lilley said, North Korea went into negotiations with South Korea demanding a joint hosting of the games, but planned the assault behind the discussions in an attempt to gain concessions. President Ronald Reagan met Soviet Union foreign minister Edward Schevardnadze in March, 1988 and secured a guarantee that Pyongyang would not terrorize the Seoul Olympics, he disclosed.

    On June 17, 1987 when demonstrations demanding democratization peaked in South Korea, Lilley said in his memoir, he visited the Blue House, the presidential mansion, carrying a personal letter from President Reagan, opposing military intervention. President Chun Doo-hwan wore a hardened countenance during a 90-minute meeting, and Lilley firmly conveyed the U.S. position opposing a martial law declaration, he reminisced.

    Reagan's personal letter also recommended further steps for political development in Seoul such as the release of political prisoners, punishment of abusive policemen and freedom of the press. In the afternoon of that day, then foreign minister Choi Kwang-su informed the American envoy of Chun's decision not to declare a martial law.

    Lilley said it's the basic understanding of Koreans that the United States effectively assisted the military suppression of the 1980 Gwangju Uprising, and Korean views of the U.S. begin from their Gwangju experience. The lesson the incident gives to America, he said, is for the United States to clearly recognize that it cannot directly intervene or coordinate anything that takes place in South Korea, that it can only play the role of support and advice, and let this be known to the Koreans.

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