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Gorbachev: Soviets Ready To Scrap Medium-Range Missiles In Asia

July 22, 1987

MOSCOW (AP) _ Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev said the Kremlin is ready to eliminate its medium- and shorter-range missiles in Asia if the United States does not insist on stationing 100 mid-range warheads in Alaska, Tass said today.

Tass said the Soviet leader made the remarks in written replies to questions from the Indonesian newspaper Merdeka.

Arms reductions talks between the superpowers have been deadlocked for weeks. The two sides are negotiating a ban on medium-range and shorter-range missiles in Europe.

One of the potential obstacles has been U.S. insistence on the right to deploy 100 warheads with a 600- to-1,500-mile range in Alaska, across the Bering Strait from the Soviet Union.

Those would balance 100 medium-range warheads with a similar range that President Reagan agreed the Soviets could keep, at least for the time being, in Soviet Asia.

However, Gorbachev indicated in his reply to Merdeka that the Soviet Union was ready to scrap its SS-20 rockets in Asia, each of which can carry three nuclear warheads.

He said the Kremlin ″is prepared to remove the question of retaining those 100 warheads on medium-range missiles which are being discussed with the Americans at the negotiations in Geneva, provided, of course, that the United States does the same.

″In other words,″ Gorabchev said, ″we will proceed from the concept of a ‘global double zero.’ ″

The United States also has sought the dismantling of shorter-range Soviet SS-12 and SS-23 rockets, which have a range of about 300 to 600 miles. The United States has no counterpart.

Following talks in Moscow in mid-April, Secretary of State George P. Shultz was convinced that Gorbachev was ready to dismantle the shorter-range missile launchers in Asia, according to a senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But the official later said the Soviets were contending that Shultz had misunderstood Gorbachev.

The issue came to be crucial in the arms talks because it involved Gorbachev’s credibility and U.S. efforts to shield China and Japan from nuclear attack.

The Asian weapons can be easily transported and sent to sites within range of China and Japan.

The Soviets have about 140 of those missile launchers overall. About one- third are in East Germany and Czechoslovakia, another third in Soviet Europe and the final third in Soviet Asia.

In his reply to the Indonesian paper, Gorbachev said, ″Shorter-range missiles will also be eliminated.″

In an interview with the weekly Moscow News, chief Soviet arms negotiator Yuli M. Vorontsov said the Soviets were ″ready for the global zero option upon the condition that American nuclear weapons in the Far East, including weapons in Japan, the Philippines and South Korea, would be taken into account and American aircraft carrier forces in the Pacific would be withdrawn beyond certain agreed-upon limits.″

Gorbachev’s remarks, however, indicated that the Soviets were modifying their demands on the United States.

The Soviet leader said his latest initiative was not linked to ″the U.S. nuclear presence in Korea, the Philippines, on Diego Garcia.″

″We would like to hope, though, that it at least will not grow,″ Gorbachev said.

Update hourly