The Reagan Administration has abandoned its effort to persuade the Soviet Union and the U.S. Congress to adopt the "broad interpretation" of the 1972 ABM treaty but will press ahead anyway with anti-missile tests on a case-by-case basis, Secretary of State George P. Shultz said Saturday.
Talking to reporters on the flight from Brussels to Copenhagen, Shultz made clear that the change was a tactical one which would not interfere with the Administration's Strategic Defense Initiative, commonly called "Star Wars."
"We're trying to get away from the matter of narrow interpretation and broad interpretation and so on," Shultz said.
Instead, he said, the Administration will seek congressional approval for specific tests without spelling out whether it is under the narrow or broad interpretation. If the Soviets object to a particular test, he said, it is up to them to decide how to react.
The Administration announced more than two years ago that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty's ban on testing in space of missile defense systems did not apply to programs, like "Star Wars," that are based on technologies that were not developed at the time the pact was signed. At that time, officials said, the Administration's program could be tested under the broad interpretation but not the more traditional narrow one.
This interpretation drew complaints from Soviet negotiators, member governments of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and members of Congress. Under a congressional budget restriction, the Administration is banned from conducting any tests under the broad interpretation before next Sept. 30.
In effect, the Administration has now decided that the argument over semantics has been lost. However, Shultz made clear, the Administration will continue to pursue the program as it sees fit.
A senior U.S. official said the Administration was prepared to negotiate with Congress over specific test programs but would not attempt to establish agreed testing guidelines with Moscow.
No Soviet Assurance
Shultz conceded that the Administration has not been assured of Soviet acquiescence in the new tactics.
"The Soviets have said for some time that they don't agree with the SDI program," Shultz said.
He said Moscow has not "delinked" its concerns over strategic defenses from negotiations over deep cuts in strategic offensive weapons. But he said the United States will pursue its own program regardless of the Soviet attitude.
Shultz flew to Copenhagen after NATO meetings in Brussels to urge Denmark to build up its conventional military forces in the wake of the treaty banning ground-launched nuclear missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,000 miles. Denmark is a member of NATO.
He got a "yes" from the government but a "no" from the parliamentary opposition.
Danish Government Aim
Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen said he had informed Shultz that the Danish government hopes to boost its military spending despite opposition in Parliament.
"The Danish government has proposed that we should increase our defense spending in the next couple of years in order to maintain the present strength," he said. "It is also part of our plans to increase the number of young people who are called to serve in the army. We are discussing that in Parliament right now."
But Svend Auken, leader of the Social Democratic Party, said his faction rejects "the old philosophy that you have to rearm to disarm." He said the West should test Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev's commitment to arms cuts.
"We should try Gorbachev out . . . try the guy before we use more money,"
INF Treaty Welcomed
Ellemann-Jensen said Denmark welcomes the treaty on intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) and "we are very strongly hoping that it will sail through the U.S. Congress" for ratification.
Critics of the INF treaty maintain that it will weaken NATO's nuclear deterrent in the face of superior strength in tanks and other conventional arms by the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact.
(In a report from Bonn, the Associated Press said Soviet arms negotiator Viktor P. Karpov told West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher that Moscow is willing to discuss cutting tank and other conventional forces in Europe. "Karpov presented Soviet ideas for negotiations on conventional stability, and Genscher found them interesting, particularly the declared Soviet willingness to remove its advantage, for example in tanks, which is not contested," a Bonn Foreign Ministry statement said, according to the AP.)
NATO hopes to compensate for the removal of the intermediate-range missiles, most of them intended for deployment in Europe, by modernizing its battlefield nuclear weapons with ranges of less than 300 miles and by trying to negotiate with the Warsaw Pact on ways to reduce conventional forces.
Increased Spending Urged
The alliance also has called for increased spending on conventional arms, although most member governments, including the United States, are resisting that plan at a time of fiscal austerity. Conventional forces are far more costly than the intermediate-range nuclear missiles to be withdrawn under the treaty.
A senior U.S. official told reporters aboard Shultz's plane that a new round of conventional arms talks could begin as early as next year. The West is proposing talks involving the 16 NATO and seven Warsaw Pact nations as a part of the larger, 35-nation, Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
However, the Western nations always insist on including a human rights section in all phases of the security and cooperation conference. That linkage would seem to mean that there will be no conventional arms reductions unless Moscow agrees to improve its human rights record, something which Gorbachev angrily resisted during his summit talks with President Reagan.