Reagan questions next summit. Says contra aid foes `unwittingly' help communists
President Reagan has indicated that, if a second summit meeting does not take place in the US this year, he will not travel to Moscow for a summit in 1987. The President said yesterday that he is sticking to his proposal for a summit conference in Washington in early summer rather than in the fall. But he said he has had no official word from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev regarding the proposed June date.
``If it [the 1986 summit] does slip through our fingers,'' said Mr. Reagan, ``I've got news for them. There won't be an '87 summit in Moscow.''
White House press spokesman Larry Speakes clarified later that the President expects the next summit to be held in Washington. If not held in 1986, he said, it will perhaps be held here in 1987.
Mr. Reagan's comments, made to a group of reporters at a breakfast meeting at the White House, was clearly another prod to Moscow to respond formally to his proposal. The Soviets have dropped the suggestion informally that they would prefer a September meeting, but the President says this would put the summit too close to domestic political campaigning and the November election.
The President also indicated in remarks after the breakfast that he saw no reason why a summit meeting should not go forward even if there is no substantial progress on arms control. The third round of arms negotiations ended in Geneva this week with little progress reported and with the Soviets venting disappointment with the American position.
Administration officials are conspicuously stressing that a summit meeting should not be linked with progress toward a concrete arms control agreement. Reagan repeated that position after the breakfast meeting, stating that there were many issues besides arms control on the superpower agenda and that the two leaders should continue the dialogue begun in Geneva.
Over omelets and bacon in the gracious state dining room of the East Wing, the President also made these comments in response to reporters' questions:
American church groups and other opponents of US covert military aid to the rebels fighting the Nicaraguan government are in effect supporting the Marxist Sandinistas and are misled by them.
If there is ``undue harassment'' of former President Marcos of the Philippines over his financial holdings, this could have an adverse effect in future efforts to persuade dictators to step down from power. It is the President's impression that Marcos was a millionaire before he took office and therefore has some wealth legitimately by way of investments over 20 years.
But if there was any wrongdoing, ``then there must be restitution.'' It is for the courts to determine whether the allegations are sound or not, he said.
There is no reason why Congress cannot be ``cooking on both burners'' with respect to putting together a tax-overhaul bill and the fiscal 1987 budget. (Senate Republicans are urging the White House to sit down and work out a ``grand compromise'' on the budget before tax reform is tackled.)
No decision has been made on whether to require federal employees to submit to a drug-use test. But it might be ``an inspiration to the rest of society'' if all people in government took the lead in volunteering such a step.
A federal tax amnesty may have some hazards, but the idea is being closely studied.
Lifting of martial law in South Africa would be a positive step but not if the Botha government replaced it with laws that gave it as much power.
Reagan would favor repeal of the 22nd Amendment limiting a president to two terms in office, inasmuch as there are plenty of safeguards against the powers of the presidency, and people should have a right to vote for whomever they want. (Such a repeal would not affect the Reagan two-term presidency.)
The morning fete at the White House marked the 20th anniversary of the breakfasts run by Monitor senior columnist Godfrey Sperling Jr. The President used the occasion to congratulate Mr. Sperling on what has become a Washington institution.
``I want to thank you, My Man Godfrey -- I have always wanted to say that,'' quipped the President, eliciting laughter. ``I understand that's almost 2,000 of those breakfasts and . . . you have really helped to establish the fact that Mom was right. The first meal of the day is the most important.''
Nicaragua dominated the journalists' questions. Asked why there is so little public support for US aid to the Nicaraguan rebels and apparent lack of support among the Latin American Contadora countries, the President replied that he thought neighboring countries did back his Nicaraguan policy. He referred, however, to the Caribbean, not the Central American nations.
``On my trip to Grenada, nine heads of state of the Caribbean island nations brought up the subject. All of them in total agreement leaned on me and said please don't stop what you are doing down there because Nicaragua under the Sandinista government represents the greatest threat to our democracies that we have ever experienced,'' he told the reporters. ``So I know where they stand.''
As for the American people, the President suggested they were preoccupied with their own problems and also lacked a knowledge about Nicaragua. ``They need to hear the facts of this situation.''
Asked why he did not use US troops in Nicaragua if the threat was so great, Mr. Reagan replied that ``the image of the great Colossus of the North still lives in Latin America,'' an image the US should eschew. Also, none of the nation's friends and allies in the region favor such a course, he said. ``While we have no intention of doing any such thing, it doesn't bother me at all if the Sandinistas go to bed every night wondering whether we are going to,'' he added.
Reagan also used the occasion to respond indirectly to former President Carter's recent accusation that he had charged the Carter administration with neglecting national defense. Queried about the alleged US and Soviet military imbalance, the President said that his administration had closed the gap considerably and that even the past administration had recognized the need to do so.
On the issue of the Philippines, the President indicated that, at a request from the new Aquino government, he would be prepared to consider more military aid to fight the communist insurgents. The US would help in any way it could -- ``under the constraints we would have'' -- to help the Filipinos maintain democracy, he said.
One reporter asked the President what he would like to accomplish in the rest of his term. Reagan cited progress toward a balanced budget, passage of a balanced-budget amendment, the process of reducing nuclear weapons under way, and tying up the ``loose ends of federalism'' to restore to the states and local communities the autonomy and authority that ``had been unjustly seized by the federal government.''