Soviets Propose Mutual Pullout From Asia Bases
Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev announced Friday that the Soviet Union will give up a key naval base in Vietnam if the United States will withdraw from its bases in the Philippines.
Gorbachev also proposed that a controversial Siberian radar station be turned into a jointly operated Soviet-American space center in an effort to meet U.S. demands that the facility be dismantled under terms of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
The Soviet leader made the proposals in a 1 1/2-hour speech during a meeting with Communist Party and local government workers in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. A summary of his speech was carried by the Soviet news agency Tass.
First Matching Offer
Moscow has often demanded that Washington close its bases in the Philippines, as well as other overseas bases, but this is its first offer to match the U.S. withdrawal and to include it in the broad range of Soviet-American arms negotiations.
In Washington, President Reagan told reporters: “I haven’t had an opportunity to go into it in detail in what it is he’s proposing. But I look forward to doing that because certainly we want to do anything we can to help bring about a better relationship between our two countries.”
But White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said Gorbachev’s proposal on the bases is not “a reasonable approach.”
“It just doesn’t seem to make sense on the face of it,” Fitzwater said. But he said the Administration will study the speech and might make a more definitive response later.
Fitzwater also said the United States will continue to insist that the Soviet radar station, located at Krasnoyarsk, be dismantled to comply with the ABM treaty. The unfinished facility is not operational. Last fall, Gorbachev called a one-year moratorium on construction that would take several years to complete.
A State Department official, who asked not to be quoted by name, called the Soviet proposal “transparently propagandistic” and said Moscow had made “this so-called offer before.”
The United States is in the midst of negotiations with the Philippines on conditions for renewing the leases on its two bases, Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station. Manila has asked for much more money than Washington is prepared to pay, however. Secretary of State George P. Shultz has suggested several times that the United States will close the bases unless the Filipinos reduce their demands.
Manila’s Agreement Likely
Still, U.S. officials have said privately that they believe the Philippine government will eventually agree to allow the facilities to stay because of the hard currency they contribute to the Philippine economy.
“If the United States agrees to the elimination of military bases in the Philippines,” Gorbachev said, “the Soviet Union will be ready, by agreement with the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, to give up (its) fleet’s material and technical supply station in Cam Ranh Bay.”
The base at Cam Ranh Bay, developed by the United States during the Vietnam War, is the Soviet Union’s largest naval base abroad, according to the Pentagon publication “Soviet Military Power.” It has brought a permanent Soviet naval presence of about 25 ships into the South China Sea and has increased the Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean.
In his remarks, Gorbachev also made new overtures to China, Japan and South Korea in a series of proposals focused on reducing the likelihood of a military confrontation in Asia.
He also made a point of acknowledging U.S. interests in Asia as legitimate, and he asked that the United States recognize the Soviet Union as an Asian power.
Search for ‘Points of Contact’
“The Soviet Union is persistently looking for points of contact with the United States on the problems of the Asian and Pacific region,” he said, “and the following question often comes to mind: Why is there no mutual understanding in this area up to now, in contrast to some other important areas?
“There is no evident conflict between Soviet and American state interests in this area. The Soviet Union does not encroach on the diverse economic relations of the United States in the region. And the Soviet Union has proved that it can take into account existing realities.
“The Soviet Union is for the broad participation of the United States in the affairs of the Asian and Pacific region, worthy of its position and its political and economic potentialities, but it should be equal, without great-power manners and the tricks of power politics. . . .”
Gorbachev’s proposal to turn the Krasnoyarsk radar station into an international space probe facility was clearly intended to break the impasse the facility has caused in Soviet-American negotiations on reducing strategic arms.
“The Soviet Union is prepared for consultations with scientists of all countries who show interest in this project,” he said. “This is our answer to the concerns of the West over the Krasnoyarsk radar.”
Officials in Washington said the Reagan Administration has already rejected an informal proposal along these lines.
But Soviet officials have high expectations for other elements of the initiative, believing that the proposals meet Asian concerns about the continuing superpower confrontation in the region.
Gorbachev called for a halt to the deployment of additional nuclear weapons in Asia, saying that the Soviet Union had already frozen its nuclear force levels and proposing that the United States and other nuclear powers agree to do the same.
He also proposed a series of multilateral discussions on freezing and then reducing naval deployments in the Far East, particularly around the Korean Peninsula, and on other measures to avoid confrontations at sea and in the air.
Speaking at the end of a five-day visit to eastern Siberia, Gorbachev sought to invest Moscow’s Asian diplomacy with the same energy that has made its activities in Europe so dynamic in the past three years.
The Soviet Union is making the proposals, he said, “as a result of reflections and additional analysis and striving to further the cause of all-Asian security.”
Stress on Non-Military Ties
Moscow’s desire, Gorbachev said, is to rely on political and economic relations with its neighbors, rather than military power, to protect its long frontier across Asia to the Far East.
“We do take care of the security of our eastern borders,” he said, echoing ideas he first voiced at the Pacific Ocean port of Vladivostok two years ago. “But this is being done not along the tracks of the arms race but through political and economic means, by creating a climate that would remove hostility, suspicion and mistrust.”
He said the government will open Siberia and the Soviet Far East, regions largely closed to foreigners for security reasons, to foreign companies.
Joint ventures with Soviet firms will be encouraged by lower taxes, reduced tariffs and other financial incentives to seek foreign partners. Foreign trade zones with lower prices for raw materials and labor will also be established in the region.
Gorbachev described Sino-Soviet relations as steadily improving and, noting a new degree of understanding on the past problems, he again expressed a Soviet desire for a meeting with the Chinese leadership.
According Beijing the recognition it has long sought from Moscow as an equal, Gorbachev said that the Soviet Union wants “full normalization of relations” with China in view of “our two countries’ responsibility for peaceful world policy.”
Times staff writer Norman Kempster in Washington contributed to this story.