Secretary of State George P. Shultz expressed disappointment today that Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze has been unwilling to agree to a meeting to begin work on the next U.S.-Soviet summit meeting.
Speaking to reporters traveling with him in the Pacific, Shultz said, "If they the Soviets don't want to have a meeting, there's nothing much we can do about it." He added, "We're prepared to have one; at this point they don't seem to be."
President Reagan asked Soviet Communist Party leader Mikhail Gorbachev in a letter last month to authorize an early Shultz-Shevardnadze meeting in Europe to begin planning for this year's summit meeting in the United States, as agreed in last November's Geneva meeting.
Shultz's comments, which displayed a degree of irritation, were the clearest indication yet that the Soviet response has not been positive.
"The ball is sort of in their court," said Shultz today, noting that July, the favored month for a meeting with Shevardnadze in the administration's view, will soon be here and time is slipping away.
Japanese officials said Shultz, in a conversation Thursday with Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe, spoke of the possibility that the meeting with Shevardnadze could be delayed until September, when the Soviet foreign minister is expected in New York for the U.N. General Assembly.
In answer to a question, Shultz said it is "not impossible" that the United States might present a detailed response to the recent Soviet arms offer sometime before the Geneva talks reconvene in September.