Secretary of State George P. Shultz, disputing reports that the White House had declared the SALT II treaty dead, today praised Soviet proposals to reduce nuclear weapons as having "substance in them."
Shultz refused to divulge the details of the proposals, including one presented to U.S. negotiators in Geneva on Wednesday. But he said it was "a good sign" that the Soviets were making proposals in the long-stalemated talks.
His remarks on the treaty itself may add further confusion to the status of the 1979 agreement with the Soviets to limit various types of long-range nuclear weapons.
Appearing on a telecast sponsored by the U.S. Information Agency, Shultz twice challenged European reporters who quoted White House spokesman Larry Speakes as saying SALT II was dead.
'Didn't Use That Word'
"He didn't use that word," Shultz said. He also questioned "inserting that word 'dead' in other peoples' mouths."
Speakes, at a White House briefing on Thursday, declared: "SALT no longer exists." He said future U.S. arms reduction decisions would hinge on what he called "Soviet behavior" in other areas.
The dispute is over the decision announced by Reagan last month to abandon a U.S. policy of not undercutting the unratified treaty.
Shultz said the President "has sought to shift gears and substitute one form of restraint for another." He also described the treaty as obsolete.
Proposals 'Have Substance'
Questioned about the Soviet proposals, Shultz said "they have a propagandistic value of course, but they have substance in them. . . . That's a good sign."
He said the United States is interested in any agreement that would reduce tensions between the two countries and lower the level of nuclear arms.
Reagan at a news conference Wednesday night condemned the SALT II treaty, which was never ratified by the Senate, as permitting the United States and the Soviet Union to increase their nuclear stockpiles. He said the treaty also had served to enhance Soviet nuclear superiority.
Supporters of the treaty, which was signed at the 1979 summit meeting in Vienna, say it has helped keep a lid on the arms buildup. They also say while one side has the lead in some weapons and the other side in others, there is rough parity between them overall.