John F. Kennedy photo

Message in Reply to a Broadcast by Chairman Khrushchev on the Cuban Crisis

October 28, 1962

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I am replying at once to your broadcast message of October twenty-eight, even though the official text has not yet reached me, because of the great importance I attach to moving forward promptly to the settlement of the Cuban crisis. I think that you and I, with our heavy responsibilities for the maintenance of peace, were aware that developments were approaching a point where events could have become unmanageable. So I welcome this message and consider it an important contribution to peace.

The distinguished efforts of Acting Secretary General U Thant have greatly facilitated both our tasks. I consider my letter to you of October twenty-seventh and your reply of today as firm undertakings on the part of both our governments which should be promptly carried out. I hope that the necessary measures can at once be taken through the United Nations, as your message says, so that the United States in turn will be able to remove the quarantine measures now in effect. I have already made arrangements to report all these matters to the Organization of American States, whose members share a deep interest in a genuine peace in the Caribbean area.

You referred in your letter to a violation of your frontier by an American aircraft in the area of the Chukotskiy Peninsula. I have learned that this plane, without arms or photographic equipment, was engaged in an air sampling mission in connection with your nuclear tests. Its course was direct from Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska to the North Pole and return. In turning south, the pilot made a serious navigational error which carried him over Soviet territory. He immediately made an emergency call on open radio for navigational assistance and was guided back to his home base by the most direct route. I regret this incident and will see to it that every precaution is taken to prevent recurrence.

Mr. Chairman, both of our countries have great unfinished tasks and I know that your people as well as those of the United States can ask for nothing better than to pursue them free from the fear of war. Modern science and technology have given us the possibility of making labor fruitful beyond anything that could have been dreamed of a few decades ago.

I agree with you that we must devote urgent attention to the problem of disarmament, as it relates to the whole world and also to critical areas. Perhaps now, as we step back from danger, we can together make real progress in this vital field. I think we should give priority to questions relating to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, on earth and in outer space, and to the great effort for a nuclear test ban. But we should also work hard to see if wider measures of disarmament can be agreed and put into operation at an early date. The United States Government will be prepared to discuss these questions urgently, and in a constructive spirit, at Geneva or elsewhere.

JOHN F. KENNEDY

Note: For the President's letter of October 27, see Item 492. An unofficial translation of Mr. Khrushchev's reply is printed in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 47, P. 743)- He expressed satisfaction with the President's message of October 27 and stated his understanding of U.S. concern in connection with the weapons "you regard as offensive." The Chairman added that the Soviet Government had ordered that the weapons be dismantled, crated, and returned to Russia, and he stated that "we are prepared to reach agreement to enable U.N. representatives to verify the dismantling of these means."

Mr. Khrushchev further stated that the Soviet weapons were defensive in character and had been sent to Cuba because the Cuban people were under "continuous threat of invasion." Referring to violations of Soviet and Cuban airspace by American planes as dangerous, he concluded by affirming his belief that "reason will triumph, that war will not be unleashed, and [that] peace and the security of the peoples will be insured."

John F. Kennedy, Message in Reply to a Broadcast by Chairman Khrushchev on the Cuban Crisis Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/236440

Simple Search of Our Archives