Chancellor Helmut Kohl revealed Monday that he plans to go to Washington this spring to discuss with President Reagan further disarmament steps, including a ban on chemical weapons.
Kohl also said that as a means of improving relations with the Soviet Union, he hopes to meet Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev sometime early this year--while West Germany holds the presidency of the European Communities.
The date, said the chancellor, will be discussed with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze during his visit to Bonn next week.
Kohl declared at a news conference that reducing the threat of chemical weapons was a special concern for the West German government, which increasingly is pursuing a divergent set of disarmament priorities from its Western military partners.
Threat to German Soil
The reason for Bonn's intense concern about chemical weapons is the same as that voiced about short-range nuclear missiles--that most such weapons would explode on German soil in the event of their use in a war.
Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher has criticized the decision of the U.S. Defense Department last month to resume producing chemical weapons after a hiatus of 18 years.
The United States is manufacturing binary chemical weapons. These are composed of two separately harmless compounds, which produce a lethal gas when combined.
The chancellor called attention to the improved state of relations between West Germany and the Soviet Union, saying he was "particularly grateful for the markedly positive development in (the) 1987 emigration of Soviet citizens who are ethnic Germans."
Kohl said a record 14,888 ethnic Germans were allowed to leave the Soviet Union and emigrate to West Germany--25 times more than the number in 1986.
Kohl said he sees the Bonn presidency of the European Communities as an opportunity for West Germany to improve links with the Soviet Union, while strengthening ties with its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.
"It would justify the faith that our partners have in our presidency and improve chances for an active Ostpolitik (Eastern policy)," he said. "It not only relieves our NATO partners of their possible concern over a 'special German route' but also wins their support."
Ties With East Germany
Kohl said that relations with East Germany have improved, with a vastly increased number of East Germans allowed to visit relatives in the West.
The chancellor took a bullish approach to West Germany's economic problems--which include weak growth, an increase in the budget deficit and the prospect of having to increase consumer taxes.