President Reagan appealed to members of the House yesterday to defeat a nuclear freeze resolution passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, contending that approval would send the wrong signal to the Soviets and "seriously undercut" the U.S. negotiating position in strategic arms reduction talks (START) in Geneva.
Reagan repeated his oft-stated belief that a nuclear freeze would lock the United States into nuclear inferiority in identically worded letters to each member of the House as the White House began a lobbying campaign to defeat the resolution.
That resolution calls on the two superpowers to aim for "a mutual and verifiable freeze on the testing, production and further deployment of nuclear warheads, missiles and other delivery systems."
After that, they should pursue a goal of reducing nuclear force levels, it says. The resolution also calls for approval of the SALT II agreement negotiated by President Carter with the Soviet Union but never ratified by the Senate.
Reagan said he was concerned that the resolution, if adopted by the full House, "will signal to the Soviet Union that we are willing to accept something less than [nuclear force] reductions ; that is, a freeze that leaves dangerous asymmetries in the nuclear balance and a return to the flawed SALT II agreement."
In the letter, Reagan said he favored a substitute resolution drafted by Rep. William S. Broomfield (R-Mich.) and others that endorses the administration's arms reduction approach and does not urge approval of SALT II as the committee version does. The substitute would demonstrate to the Soviets that Americans are united in their approach to arms reduction, Reagan said.
White House deputy press secretary Larry Speakes said Reagan would probably be making calls to members of Congress to urge support of the Broomfield substitute.
The unexpected support for the freeze resolution by seven of the 16 Republicans when the Foreign Affairs Committee approved the resolution on a key 26-to-11 vote late last month removed the partisan label from what had been primarily a Democratic issue.
A close battle is expected on the floor when the resolution is expected to be taken up by the House either late this week or early next week. Support for the resolution appears to reflect election year pressures and growing antinuclear sentiment in this country.
Reagan also met with Cameroon President Ahmadou Ahidjo and said he is pleased that the African nation has "opened its doors to American businessmen." Reagan said the discussions also dealt with problems in southern Africa and the Mideast.