Dutch Foreign Minister Max van der Stoel said yesterday that unless U.S.-Soviet strategic arms reduction talks are resumed soon and there is progress in negotiations on limiting medium-range missiles, the chances that the Netherlands would allow the deployment of U.S. cruise missiles would be "further diminished."
Van der Stoel said he hoped the upcoming NATO summit in Bonn would be a "starting signal for START," the Reagan administration's name for new strategic arms talks, and added that he would favor serious discussion on limiting the role of nuclear weapons in NATO defense strategy.
"If today there would be a vote" in the Dutch parliament on the planned deployment of 48 cruise missiles in the Netherlands starting in December 1983, "I wonder if there would be a positive vote," van der Stoel said.
The Dutch position on stationing U.S. missiles is crucial because West Germany, where most of the warheads will be placed, accepted the controversial NATO plan on the condition that at least one other nonnuclear European ally agrees to deploy the U.S. missiles. This Tuesday, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who is under pressure from the left wing of his Social Democratic Party, urged his party to reject a move to freeze the planned NATO deployment.
Van der Stoel also said he has asked the State Department, in a Monday meeting with Undersecretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger, to intercede with El Salvador to obtain access to the sergeant and 24 soldiers in the Salvadoran patrol that killed four Dutch journalists on March 17. U.S. officials have interviewed members of the patrol.
Meeting with Washington Post editors and reporters, van der Stoel noted that his government differed with the United States on several points of Central American and Caribbean policy. The case of the slain journalists has developed into a potentially sharp irritant in usually cordial U.S.-Dutch relations. Officials in The Hague reportedly have expressed displeasure at the limited cooperation they feel they have gotten from the United States in their investigation.
A State Department spokeswoman said yesterday that the United States has assisted the Dutch investigation "in every appropriate way." Van der Stoel said he has not received a response yet to his formal request.
Van der Stoel is in Washington in connection with the state visit of Queen Beatrix, who is here for the celebration of 200 years of Dutch-American friendship.
On the nuclear issue, van der Stoel said, "I find it difficult to see how one can come to decisions" on theater nuclear weapons "if there are not parallel START negotiations." The Soviets and Americans are conducting talks in Geneva on theater weapons.
He stressed repeatedly his view that the alliance needs to discuss the possibility of shifting more to conventional weapons. "I do not argue against the need for nuclear weapons," he said, but he added: "I do wonder whether those 6,000 nuclear warheads based in Europe all play a useful role."
Van der Stoel is a member of the Dutch Labor Party, a minority partner in the Netherlands' tenuous, three-party coalition. His party's parliamentary group is already on the record as saying it would "under no circumstances" accept the cruise missiles, and van der Stoel conceded yesterday that Labor ministers would have to resign if the Dutch had to accept the missiles.
Any new Dutch government would be under intense pressure from the country's extremely vocal peace movement to resist the NATO plan, which calls for stationing 572 U.S. cruise and Pershing missiles in five West European countries with parallel negotiations with the Soviet Union on limiting medium-range, or theater nuclear weapons.
The deaths of the four newsmen created a major stir in the Netherlands. The Salvadoran Army has said the four were killed in a skirmish between Salvadoran troops and a group of guerrillas with whom the journalists were traveling.
The Dutch government has outlined its skepticism about the Salvadoran version. Yesterday, van der Stoel said the Salvadoran position "is incorrect on a number of points."
He said it is doubtful that the guerrillas opened fire on the troops first, as El Salvador asserts. He added that the official version contained a number of incorrect details about the time of the incident and the number of guerrillas in the group.