Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev sent a letter of friendship to South Korea Monday, but their still-new bilateral relations are being tested by fresh news about the 1983 Soviet downing of a Korean Air jetliner carrying 269 people.

Gorbachev's letter was delivered to President Roh Tae-woo by Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Rogachev, who arrived Sunday for a "policy consultative meeting" between the two countries that set up formal relations for the first time Sept. 30.A presidential spokesman said Gorbachev in his letter said a joint declaration he and Roh issued in Moscow in December during Roh's visit will lay the foundation for peace, stability and cooperation in the Asia and the Pacific region.