President Reagan said in an interview released yesterday that he is "very willing" to meet with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the United Nations in the fall, despite his disappointment with the Soviet response to the killing of a U.S. officer in East Germany.
Reagan said the Soviets missed a "great opportunity to achieve some stature in the world" by not admitting that the March 24 fatal shooting of U.S. Army Maj. Arthur D. Nicholson Jr. by a Soviet sentry was a "tragic thing" and apologizing to the officer's family.
But in an interview with journalists from six nations participating with the United States in the economic summit this week, Reagan said he wants to meet the Soviet leader because "people get in trouble when they're talking about each other instead of when they're talking to each other."
Reagan's comments about meeting Gorbachev were similar to those he first made in an interview with The Washington Post April 1. Since then, the outrage over Nicholson's death has clouded prospects for discussions between the two leaders.
Asked what he would talk about with Gorbachev, Reagan said there should be "open discussion" about "some of the things that cause us all to be suspicious of each other, and see if we can't get some things out in the open on the table so that we understand each other better."
When a West German journalist asked Reagan about his plans to visit a German military cemetery next Sunday at Bitburg, the president refused comment, saying, "I am going to be a guest of your government."
In his weekly radio address yesterday, Reagan called his visit to Europe this week a "fitting" commemoration of the end of World War II and "the beginning of a new relationship with our former enemies."
But he made no mention of the furor over his visit to the Bitburg cemetery where Nazi SS troops are buried.
In the Democratic response to the address, Rep. David E. Bonior (D-Mich.) said the American people have not forgotten the atrocities the Nazi SS troops committed against Jews and U.S. prison- ers of war, and urged the presi- dent to cancel his visit to the cemetery.
"The desire to heal the wounds of that war is a noble one," Bonior said. "But in reconciliation, we must not sacrifice our sense of history."
Bonior charged that Reagan has failed to learn the lessons of Vietnam as well as World War II. "We are, in fact, deeply involved in a widening war in Central America," he said, referring to assistance to antigovernment "contra" rebels in Nicaraqua and U.S. participation in war games in neighboring Honduras. "This is a war America does not want."
Congress last week rejected administration requests to continue aid to the contras. Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) yesterday said a visit to Moscow by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega demonstrated that lawmakers made a major mistake.
"Congress really fumbled the ball," Dole said. "Now there is little doubt about President Ortega's political leanings. When we in Congress had the opportunity to take constructive action to help the contras and preserve democracy in Nicaragua, we turned our backs."
Dole urged that Reagan and Congress consider a trade embargo on Nicaragua, a major banana and coffee exporter.
Reagan also used his weekly radio address to continue the lobbying effort for federal spending cuts he began with a nationwide television speech Wednesday. The president compared his economic recovery with the rebuilding of Europe after World War II, and linked efforts to reduce the $200 billion-plus annual federal deficit with the economic summit of the industrialized democracies in Bonn.
Urging voters to flood congressional offices with telephone calls and letters, Reagan said, "When I'm meeting with our friends and allies in Europe this coming week, I'll do so with confidence because ultimately I know you'll make the right decision."
The president criticized lawmakers who he said have proposed reducing the deficit by increasing taxes or freezing spending. An across-the-board freeze would result "in wasteful and inefficient" government programs, he said. "A freeze is really a decision not to make a decision."
Raising taxes would encour- age Congress to raise spending, and could lead to a recession, Reagan said.