WASHINGTON — President Reagan today approved an accord permitting the sale to China of nuclear reactors and then, in his first diplomatic ceremony since cancer surgery 10 days ago, welcomed visiting Chinese President Li Xiannian.
Reagan, pale and walking somewhat stiffly, held hands with his wife, Nancy, as he emerged for the welcoming on the White House South Lawn.
The 74-year-old Reagan, who walked unaided to a small podium for the ceremony, put his arm around the 76-year-old Li to gently guide him to his seat at the start of the abbreviated, 12-minute ceremony. Such official greetings usually last about 30 minutes.
The two leaders stood during their national anthems and when they delivered their own brief remarks. Each took a seat when the other man spoke.
Basis of Good Will
Reagan declared the two nations had built a "foundation of good will" that included a joint stand against aggression.
In his remarks, Li--making the first visit to the United States ever by a Chinese president--told Reagan: "I'm very happy to see you are recovering so fast and I'm deeply touched by your participation in this welcoming ceremony."
Deputy Press Secretary Larry Speakes said that Reagan gave his approval to the nuclear agreement, which has been more than a year in the making, before greeting Li.
He informed the Chinese leader of his agreement during their 30-minute talk in the Green Room, Speakes said. The pact is expected to be signed later today or Wednesday at the State Department.
For Peaceful Use
"The agreement provides a legal framework for the sale of nuclear reactors, components . . . and technology" to China, Speakes said.
"It is designed for the peaceful use, and only peaceful use" of nuclear energy, Speakes added. He noted the accord specifically bans the use of materials from the reactors for explosives.
A dispute between the two nations over a major provision barring any transfer of materials to a third country apparently has been settled. "We would not be signing it, if we were not satisfied," Speakes said.
Once the agreement is signed it will be submitted to Congress and go into effect after 90 days if neither house objects.