WASHINGTON — Without a formal explanation, the Soviets canceled their participation in the annual series of U.S.-Soviet talks on avoiding naval problems, the State Department said today.
Department spokesman Joseph Reap said, "The Soviets have informed us they have decided not to come for the incidents-at-sea talks at this time. Both sides agree that the talks are important and in their mutual interest."
He said both sides agreed to try to establish another meeting date in the future.
U.S. officials said that the Soviet cancellation of this year's session --the 14th annual meeting of naval officers from both sides--came after the Pentagon announced that social and informal sessions at the talks would be curtailed or eliminated as a direct result of the Soviet failure to apologize or pay compensation to the family of U.S. Army Maj. Arthur Nicholson, killed by a Soviet sentry in East Germany in March.
The talks are designed to establish rules of the road for naval vessels of both sides and avoid the possibility that a naval incident could escalate into a major confrontation between the two powers.
It marked the first time the annual meeting between both sides has not been held on schedule. The agreement was signed in August, 1972.