New Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev drew praise Thursday from a number of Western leaders for his take-charge manner during a series of whirlwind mini-summit talks, in which he made clear that he will stick to the Kremlin's line of opposition to U.S. anti-missile defense plans.
The meetings, in which the 54-year-old Gorbachev reportedly displayed a strong and open style, produced a new sense of optimism about East-West relations and the possibility of reaching an agreement during Geneva negotiations on nuclear arms control.
On substance, however, the new Kremlin leader hewed to existing Soviet positions, including his reaffirmation of opposition to President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative--"Star Wars," as it is popularly called. He urged Western Europeans not to support the proposal.
Warning to Pakistan
In another meeting, Gorbachev warned Pakistan's President Zia ul-Haq about "aggressive action" against Afghanistan originating from Pakistani territory.
But he extended an olive branch to China, declaring that Moscow stands ready for serious efforts to improve relations despite 20 years of strained dealings.
Among those he met Thursday were West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Chinese Vice Premier Li Peng.
Kohl said he was impressed with Gorbachev's vigor and mastery of information, adding: "This is a man who can argue and who can listen . . . and has a keen historical awareness."
Mulroney said he came away with the impression that the successor to Konstantin U. Chernenko, who died Sunday, is clearly in command but is not inflexible.
'A Certain Openness'
"In my judgment, there's a certain openness, there's an understanding of the West that in some cases was not present in the past," Mulroney said.
In his meeting with Nakasone, according to the official Tass news agency, Gorbachev "stressed the importance of removing hardships and obstacles artificially created by the Japanese side" that he said were impeding better relations between Moscow and Tokyo. The two countries have argued for years about sovereignty over the Kurile Islands which the Soviet Union secured from Japan following World War II, fishing rights and Soviet military flights into Japanese airspace.
At his session with Li, however, Gorbachev said the Kremlin seeks "a serious improvement of relations" with Peking, adding that this would be possible with a spirit of reciprocity. In this case, the new leader was echoing the words of his predecessor.
In a separate session with Pakistan's Zia, however, Gorbachev showed a tougher side. He warned that continued Pakistani aid for anti-Communist insurgents fighting in Afghanistan against government and Soviet troops would harm Soviet-Pakistani relations.
Earlier, Gorbachev conferred with the Soviet-supported president of Afghanistan, Babrak Karmal, and they renewed their denunciation of "aggressive actions by outside forces" aimed at Afghanistan.
The Soviet Union has deployed about 115,000 troops in the Afghan countryside in a concerted effort to crush anti-government resistance forces.
In the past, the Soviet media have accused the United States, China, Egypt as well as Pakistan of aiding the insurgents in Afghanistan.
Gorbachev met late Wednesday with Vice President George Bush, who delivered an invitation from President Reagan to the new Soviet leader to visit the United States and confer with the President.
Gorbachev, according to reports from Washington, agreed to consider the invitation but gave no hint of whether it would be accepted.
Bush told reporters afterward that Reagan is ready to enter summit talks as soon as the new Soviet leadership is prepared for a high-level dialogue.