U.S.-Soviet negotiations to reduce long-range nuclear weapons will resume on June 19, Secretary of State James A. Baker III announced Tuesday.
The talks were suspended last November with about 90 percent of the work completed on a new treaty sharply cutting back ocean-spanning bombers, missiles and nuclear submarines.The negotiations tentatively had been set to resume in February, but President Bush ordered a delay for a reassessment of U.S. arms control policy and strategic weaponry.
The review was recently concluded, and Baker on a trip to Moscow two weeks ago reached an agreement with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev for a resumption of the negotiations. The precise date in June was left open until now.
The Soviets had been eager to resume but waited for completion of the review.
Baker has said the U.S. position in the Geneva talks would be to pick up where the Reagan administration left off as it sought a cutback of 30 percent to 50 percent. But Baker said the administration also reserved the option to make some changes. He did not say what differences might emerge at the bargaining table.
Among the unsettled issues are whether to try to restrict mobile land-based missiles and how to verify reductions in such elusive arms as sea-launched and air-launched cruise missiles.
Max M. Kampelman, who was chief arms-control negotiator in the Reagan administration, has said a treaty could be completed within a few months. That is not clear in light of possible new U.S. bargaining positions.
The Soviets also were determined to restrict the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative, or Star Wars, program that seeks to construct a defense against ballistic missiles.
The strategic weapons are the most potent in the world.
The two superpowers in 1987 concluded a treaty to eliminate another class of nuclear arms--intermediate-range missiles that can travel from 300 to 3,000 miles. the pact also established a system of verification that involves Soviet monitors going to U.S. installations and American inspectors operating on Soviet territory.
A third category of nuclear arms--so-called battlefield or tactical missiles--has not been subject to negotiations.
The West German government, with support from several North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, has urged the United States to negotiate reductions or even total elimination of the ground-based missiles with Moscow. But the U.S. position is that the missiles should be improved and are essential to the defense of Western Europe.
Still a gap to bridge
Secretary of State James A. Baker III said Tuesday that a U.S.-West German dispute over short-range missiles in Europe remains unresolved, and "there is still a gap to bridge."
Baker's comments, at a briefing for reporters on next week's 40th anniversary summit meeting of NATO, indicated that the Bush adminstration and the government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl had yet to find a common ground, despite a succession of proposals and counterproposals that have crossed the Atlantic.
The dispute, over whether to negotiate with the Soviet Union on cutting the nuclear arsenals of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact in Europe, has split the Western alliance. West Germany generally has supported such talks. The United States has voiced opposition to them so long as the East maintains a superiority in conventional weapons.
President Bush had voiced optimism as recently as Sunday.
Baker said Tuesday: "We're very hopeful that it will be resolved before the summit. And we remain hopeful. I can't tell you that we know that it will be."