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A 9-year-old Hong Kong girl has written to Soviet...

HONG KONG -- A 9-year-old Hong Kong girl has written to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov asking why her best friend had to die in the downing of a Korean Air Lines jetliner.

Yuen Wai-sum, 8, was the youngest of the 269 passengers and crew who perished Thursday when Soviet jets shotdown the Korean plane near Sakhalin Island in the north Pacific.

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The girl's parents also died in the crash.

Choi Man-yee, 9, will mail the letter to Andropov Monday when post offices in Hong Kong open, the South China Morning Post reported in a front-page story Sunday.

The child's letter to the Soviet leader was inspired by a similar letter to Andropov written earlier this year by an 11-year-old American schoolgirl from Maine, the English-language daily reported.

Samantha Smith was invited to visit the Soviet Union after she wrote Andropov asking the Soviet leader about Russia's attitude toward nuclear disarmament.

In her letter, Choi asked for permission to visit Sakhalin Island to say goodbye to her best friend who, her parents said, were 'as close as twin sisters.'

Choi's letter to the Soviet leader said, in part:

'I am heartbroken and have had nightmares because my best friend is dead.

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'My Daddy and Mummy told me that some Russian men killed her and many, many other people, too.

'I asked Daddy why the Russians are so cruel. Yuen Wai-sum was eight and was my best friend. Now we can never play together again.

'Why?

'You are the leader of the Russians, can you tell me why Russians have to kill her?

'I want to mame offerings to Wai-sum, to give her some fresh flowers and to pay respect to her spirit. May I? 'You are the leader. If you say yes, then it must be okay.'

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