WASHINGTON — President Reagan, warmly welcoming West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to the White House, said Tuesday he is optimistic that the United States and the Soviet Union would build on what he called the giant step forward taken in Iceland to seal an arms control agreement.
"We're now striving to build on the progress achieved at Reykjavik," Reagan told Kohl in welcoming the West German leader to the White House. "There is . . . ample reason for optimism."
Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev came close to concluding a sweeping arms control agreement at the Oct. 11-12 summit in Iceland, but the deal collapsed over Reagan's "Star Wars" missile defense system.
But Reagan said his Strategic Defense Initiative, as the land- and space-based anti-missile system is formally known, would make an arms control agreement more likely by forcing Soviet concessions in other areas.
Building on the optimism U.S. officials have sought to portray since the initial shock and disappointment immediately after the summit collapsed, Reagan said the question was "when and not if" an agreement would be concluded.
Kohl, beginning his seventh visit to the United States since becoming chancellor in late 1982, is the first European leader to meet Reagan after the abortive summit.
Responding to Reagan's welcoming remarks, Kohl urged the United States to build on what he called the major steps taken towards arms control at Reykjavik but stressed such deals should be struck "without endangering our security."
West German officials said that Kohl, who arrived Monday night and leaves early Thursday, expanded on that theme during his one-hour Oval Office meeting with Reagan.
Spokesman Friedhelm Ost said Kohl told Reagan that he is in favor of a proposal to abolish medium-range missiles in Europe but sought assurances that such a deal would not leave West Germany vulnerable to Soviet short-range weapons or attack from vastly superior Warsaw Pact conventional forces.
Ost, briefing reporters after the meeting, said Kohl also approved of a proposal to reduce strategic weapons by 50% over five years but argued that further reductions in those forces, as envisaged in Iceland, should not take place until NATO had improved its conventional force posture.
"The German government accepts the 50% reduction but thinks the discussions in Reykjavik for greater reduction could be a danger for Western Europe," Ost said.