The United States and the Soviet Union edged closer to agreement today on the few issues remaining in the way of a new stragetic arms limitation treaty and U.S. officials waited expectantly for new Soviet Positions at "crucial" meeting scheduled for Friday.
Both Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, in separte comments to reporters follwong a day of negotiations, said progress had been made. Using almost identical language, Vance and Gromyko sid they have "got a way to go."
Vance spoke in the plural of the matters yet to be resolved, but indications were that the principal remaining question was Soviet encoding of some missile testing information tht could be valuable to the United States in monitoring th pact. The secretary of state is believed to have presented formally to Gromyko the U.S. position on the test data issue along with several other questions that have been discussed at the ambassadorial level in recent weeks. These include the number of cruise missiles to be carried by heavy bombers, details of Soviet assurances about its Backfire bomber and the exact timing of Soviet missile reductions called for by the pact.
The U.S. side has made it clear that Soviet cooperation on the missile test data issueis necessary if a traty is to be concluded.The American proposal presented today reportedly calls for the Soviets not to put into code technical data that could impede U.S. monitoring.
A concession from the U.S. side involving the definition of cruise missiles apparently is tied to a Soviet concession on the test data issue. The United States had asked for the right to deploy, outside SALT restrictions, air-launched cruise missiles with conventional rather than nuclear war-heads. But like the missile test coding, this could present a problem of verification and the United States is reported to be ready to give it up in trade.
After the five hours of talks ended this evening, Vance spoke by telephone for about 10 minutes with President Carter in Washington. Some U.S. officials expected Gromyko would communite with Moscow overnight in an effort to resolve the remaining questions.
U.S. spokesman Hodding Carter, briefing reporters, raised the possiblity that the Vance-Gromyko talks might continue beyond Friday if more time is needed. Vance and Gromyko are "going to try to talk it all the way through," Carter said.
On arrival here this morning after an overnight flight from Washington Vance said it is his hope that this will be the concluding set of meetings with Gromyko on a SALT II pact.
If the two foreign ministers reach basic agreement on the few issues still remaining, they are expected to turn to planning an early summit meeting of President Carter and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Carter has said he will invite Soviet leader to Washington as early as mid-january.
In answer to questions about the impact of last Friday's announcement that U.S.-Chinese diplomatic relations will be established, spokesman Carter said, "China has not arisen, period" in the SALT talks. Carter said he had not heard any indication that U.S.-China pact figured in any way in the discussions about SALT with China's archrival, the Soviet Union.