New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange said today that Chinese leaders have informed him that, like New Zealand, China will not accept visits by foreign ships carrying nuclear weapons.

"What we have is a very firm position by the Chinese, which I did not elicit from them, . . . that they did not propose to have nuclear weapons on visiting vessels," said Lange at a press conference at the end of a week-long visit to China.

The Chinese statement to Lange seemed to make more explicit China's rejection of any port visits by ships that might be carrying nuclear weapons. But the Chinese have yet to make a formal policy statement on the subject, and a western diplomat said he did not consider Lange's characterization of the Chinese position as the final word.

Lange met during his visit here with senior leader Deng Xiaoping, Premier Zhao Ziyang and Communist Party leader Hu Yaobang.

The United States had planned a Navy port visit to Shanghai last spring, but it was postponed indefinitely after Hu and a high-ranking Chinese Foreign Ministry official made remarks to reporters that seemed to rule out any port calls by nuclear-armed U.S. ships.

As part of a longstanding policy, the United States refuses to confirm or deny whether American ships making port calls carry nuclear weapons.

New Zealand has banned U.S. Navy visits unless Washington provides assurances that U.S. ships are not carrying nuclear weapons, and Lange implied today that China takes the same position.