Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. said yesterday that the Navy "stands ready" to allow the Soviets or other parties to inspect weapons on its ships to determine if they are nuclear or conventional if this can be negotiated as part of an arms control agreement.
Lehman made that statement against the backdrop of the New Zealand government's refusal to allow the destroyer Buchanan to go into its port because the Navy would not say whether it carried nuclear weapons.
The Navy is putting Tomahawk cruise missiles on a number of warships. The Tomahawk can carry either a nuclear or conventional warheads, and from the outside it looks the same no matter which warhead it is carrying.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, Lehman said that doubts about what type weapons U.S. ships carried might pose an obstacle to arms control efforts, but he contended that this dual capability of the Tomahawk was no different than fighter-bombers that can carry nuclear or conventional bombs.
"It is my personal belief," said Lehman, who formerly was a deputy director of the U.S. arms control agency, "to get meaningful and substantial progress for the long term in arms control that we must have on-site inspection techniques as part of that negotiation. The Navy stands ready to accept whatever intrusive means of arms control inspection, including allowing Soviet inspection teams aboard our ships, whatever is negotiated."