WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army commander in Europe said Sunday that he will meet with State Department officials today to make plans for a meeting with his Soviet counterpart to discuss the killing of Army Maj. Arthur D. Nicholson, Jr. by a Soviet sentry in East Germany a week ago.
Gen. Glenn K. Otis, who participated in the military funeral for Nicholson here Saturday, said that he could give no information on when or where his talks with Gen. Mikhail M. Zaitsev will begin. An agreement for the two officers to meet was announced Saturday after Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin conferred with Secretary of State George P. Shultz about the killing.
"There may be an announcement after my meeting at the State Department," Otis said when asked about the timing.
The U.S. general, who spoke by telephone from Ft. Monroe, Va., where he was visiting, said that he has not met Zaitsev, since the Soviet officer is headquartered in East Germany, not in Berlin. Otis has routinely conferred with Soviet commanders in Berlin where U.S., British and French officers share responsibilities stemming from the World War II occupation by the four Allied powers.
Meanwhile, in London, the Sunday Times reported that Nicholson may have been attempting to take photographs of new guns on Soviet T-80 tanks when he was shot. The newspaper, quoting an unnamed West German source, said the major "hoped to spy on secret new weapons supplied to a crack Soviet first-strike force stationed near the West German border."
'Prime Intelligence Target'
Calling the Soviet force a "prime intelligence target," the newspaper said the force would be used to breach Western defenses in the event of a Soviet invasion.
In West Germany, the news magazine Der Spiegel said West German intelligence experts believe the shooting "may have been a deliberate provocation" designed to bring about a halt in a post-World War II agreement that allows Soviet military missions to conduce surveillance activities in West Germany while western missions do the same in East Germany.
The magazine said the experts believe that the arrangement has been of greater advantage to Western observers. Therefore, it added, Moscow has an interest in ending the arrangement.
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, took note of the arrangement in an NBC "Meet the Press" broadcast Sunday and said that the United States does not intend to "brush off" what she called the murder of Nicholson.
"I don't think we'll propose to forget it, or to simply brush it off as though it had not been a very important event," she said. "It was a very important event because that American officer was representing his country in the context of an agreement which we have with the Soviets."
'We Don't Shoot Them'
Kirkpatrick said that Soviet officers move into restricted areas of the American zone in West Berlin, and one did so two or three weeks ago.
"We don't shoot them when they do," she said.
Much of the reaction from official Washington has been one of relief that the Soviets have agreed to talk about the incident and discuss means of preventing a repetition. The shooting has not prompted a breakup of the Geneva arms control talks or disrupted expectations of a summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. Kirkpatrick said, however, that the United States is not ready simply to forgive and forget.
"I don't think that that was implied in the announcement that Americans and Soviets will be meeting to discuss this incident and I would very much hope that the Soviets would find it possible to apologize and to express to the (Nicholson) family their deep regret," she said.