Soviets Plan A-Tests but Make New Offer

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From a Times Staff Writer

The Soviet Union said Sunday that it plans to resume nuclear testing soon, but it offered to return to its moratorium if the Reagan Administration agrees to halt U.S. tests.

The White House rebuffed the offer, sticking to its position that modernizing the U.S. nuclear deterrent force makes continued tests necessary.

At the same time, President Reagan has reportedly instructed U.S. arms negotiators in Geneva to avoid any discussion of limits on space-based strategic defenses while the Administration seeks to marshal support for its broad interpretation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.


The two superpowers are at loggerheads over the issue, which is at the heart of President Reagan’s project for defenses against strategic nuclear missiles, commonly called “Star Wars.”

The 1972 ABM treaty generally has been held to prohibit testing of several types of defensive systems, but the Administration is arguing for a broader interpretation of the pact, which would allow more tests.

U.S. to Seek Allied Support

State Department officials said that three top arms control advisers are scheduled to visit allies in Europe and Asia this week in search of support for the idea.

The Soviet Union has rejected the broad interpretation and has warned that it will not agree to limits on strategic offensive nuclear weapons and medium-range nuclear weapons--the other two subjects of the Geneva talks--unless space-based weaponry is also curbed.

Reagan has repeatedly rejected any limits on strategic defenses, most notably at last year’s Reykjavik summit with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

The New York Times and the Associated Press reported Sunday that Reagan has issued a formal directive instructing his Geneva negotiators to avoid even discussing any limits that would be more restrictive than the Administration now accepts.


Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov repeated his government’s position that the Administration’s interpretation “kills the (ABM) treaty” and could lead to “another round of the nuclear arms race.”

Pressure from Soviet Military

Gerasimov, interviewed on ABC News’ “This Week With David Brinkley” said that Gorbachev decided to end his 18-month-long moratorium on nuclear testing under pressure from the Soviet military.

Asked when the tests will begin, Gerasimov said: “Well, pretty soon, because we waited, waited and waited, we waited for 560 days and 25 of your explosions. So our military people are saying to our politicians: ‘Look, we must do something because otherwise we’ll be behind.’ It’s that simple. . . . “I want to stress one point, which is, we’re going to stop our tests immediately after you stop them, even in the middle of our series of tests, where we’ll stop it if you stop.”

But White House spokesman Dan Howard said that the U.S. position on nuclear testing is unchanged.

“So long as we depend on nuclear weapons as a major part of deterrence, we will continue to test,” he said.

A team of American scientists that has been monitoring the Soviet test site since last year said on Saturday that Soviet authorities had asked them to turn off their instruments for at least three days.


Moscow radio quoted Gorbachev as saying that the Soviet Union will announce the initial test ahead of time.