Former president Richard Nixon is planning visits to Europe, China and other Far Eastern nations in a step toward a full-scale return to public life, informed sources said yesterday.

The sources said Nixon' foreign travels probably will begin next month but will not, for the time being, include the Middle East, where sensitive diplomatic moves are under way to revive Israeli-Egyptian peace talks. They said he does not want to do anything that could be construed as interference in that diplomatic initiative.

The sources said Nixon, who resigned in the face of almost certain impeachment four years ago, has received a number of invitations from foreign nations and has decided to start accepting them as part of his gradual emergence from life in seclusion.

His aides, they said, have alerted the State Department and the White House, on a courtesy basis, of the travel plans.

It seemed doubtful that Mrs. Nixon would be able to accompany him because of the arduous travel schedule apparently being planned. She suffered a stroke two years ago and still shows slight signs of paralysis.

Although the sources said Nixon's itinerary is still incomplete, China would be a natural place for him to visit.

His historic 1972 China trip marked what many consider his greatest foreign policy triumph, and the Peking leadership was unfazed by his Watergate downfall.

He visited China as a state guest shortly after his resignation - the only overseas trip he has made since leaving office and the only major excursion from his San Clemente, Calif., hideaway until last January, when he attended Senator Hubert Humphrey's funeral here.

Since then, Nixon has eased back into the limelight by publishing his best-selling presidential memoirs, attending a ball game in California and making a triumphant "coming out" visit to Hyden, Ky., on July 1.

In a telephone interview taped Friday with Los Angeles TV talk show host Sam Yorty, Nixon discussed foreign policy and criticized President Carter's handling of arms limitation talks with the Soviets.

He also rapped Carter's decision to withdraw U.S. groun troops from South Korea, saying such a step will "invite North Korea to attack."

In Plains, Ga., Carter said: "I don't worry about it," when reporters asked him for comment on Nixon's attacks.

Nixon told Yorty he plans to accept some speaking engagements in the months ahead, and disclosed he is writing a second book "about the next 20 years for the free world."