President Reagan today said his "Star Wars" anti-missile program is largely a defensive system that would "change history" by offering the world "security through protection rather than retaliation."
With the superpower summit two weeks away, he defended the Strategic Defense Initiative against attacks on its cost and feasibility and rejected its abandonment as "too high a price" for any arms reduction agreement.
Speaking to the front-line technological troops of his drive for a shield against nuclear missiles, Reagan called the program "a moral as well as a scientific endeavor worth every minute and hour you are dedicating to it."
"You are not working to build a bargaining chip," Reagan told employees of the Martin Marietta Denver Aeronautics, a major contractor for the Strategic Defense Initiative. "It will not be traded away."
Getting a jump on the extended Thanksgiving weekend, Reagan made a two-hour stop en route to his California ranch to deliver a vigorous argument for his Strategic Defense Initiative in advance of talks two weeks away with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
Reagan looked ahead to the signing of an accord on eliminating intermediate-range nuclear missiles as "just a beginning" of new movement toward a more ambitious goal: deep cuts in strategic arms, a goal complicated to date by Reagan's refusal to accede to Soviet demands for curbs on SDI.
"But let there be no doubt," Reagan said, "giving up the Strategic Defense Initiative and the protection it will provide is too high a price for any agreement."