Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Leonid Ilyichev told journalists tonight that he would visit Peking in the near future to resume political consultations with Chinese officials.
His remarks at a Chinese Embassy national-day reception confirmed reports that the two Communist countries were about to resume the talks broken off by the Chinese following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December, 1979.
Chinese diplomatic sources said the talks would resume next week under an agreement already in effect. One source said they would involve a broad review of all matters of mutual interest.
The comments by Chinese diplomats appeared to contradict earlier reports from Peking that Ilyichev would visit as a private guest of the Soviet ambassador in hopes of inducing the Chinese to invite him for official discussions.
One Chinese diplomat, asked whether Ilyichev was going as the Soviet ambassador's guest, replied: "No, he is our guest." No such high-ranking Soviet has visited China in recent years.
While the Chinese insisted on describing the forthcoming talks as "political contacts" rather than negotiations, Peking's agreement to accept Ilyichev seems to open possibilities of easing tensions.
Diplomats here generally agree that China's move reflected its anger with President Reagan's policy of continuing to support Taiwan and was likely to be used as a means of applying pressure on Washington.
The Soviets have said all along that there were disagreements among the Chinese leaders over the low state of relations with Moscow and the friendship with Washington.
During the past year, the two countries exchanged various delegations and athletes. Several senior Foreign Ministry officials from here have visited Peking as guests of the Soviet ambassador but have met with senior Chinese officials.
In contrast to previous years, a substantial number of medium-level Soviet officials turned up at today's reception in the huge Chinese Embassy building. Perhaps by coincidence, a number of political officers of the U.S. Embassy normally invited to the Chinese reception did not get invitations this year.