Defense Secretary Harold Brown will travel to China for the first time in December or January, administration officials said yesterday.
Brown, they said, will discuss mutual concerns around the world but will not make any deals to sell weapons to China. His visit will be the first to China by a U.S. defense secretary.
The Carter administration position is that the United States will not sell weapons either to the Soviet Union or China, but will not oppose European nations selling arms to China.
Administration officials also attempted to discourage the conclusion that Brown's trip represents a decision to tilt toward Peking at the expense of Moscow. Officials volunteered that Brown had met his Soviet counterpart, Dmitry Ustinov, at the strategic arms limitation talks in June. They said Ustinov has been invited to visit the United States but has not responded.
No American defense secretary has visited the Soviet Union while holding office, according to Pentagon officials.
Although James R. Schlesinger visited China in September 1976 he was not defense secretary at the time. President Ford fired him from that job in November 1975.
Although administration officials said yesterday it is still their policy to ban weapons sales to Peking, such a restriction does not rule out providing military training and technical assistance.
The Army Corps of Engineers already has established a beachhead in China to advise on such civil projects as barge canals and flood control. Corps officials have visited China and Chinese technicians have been guests of the Engineers in the United States.
Administration officials said Brown's agenda for his China visit has not been settled. They said Vice President Mondale suggested the Brown trip during his recent visit to China, and Chinese officials approved the idea.