WASHINGTON — Secretary of State George P. Shultz, assuring the NATO allies that the United States has an awesome and flexible nuclear arsenal, said today the West "shouldn't be afraid to take yes for an answer to our proposal" for missile reductions.
In a move to persuade the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to approve the near-deal he worked out with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, Shultz held open the possibility of trying to eliminate even the 100 medium-range warheads the two sides have tentatively agreed to keep.
Similarly, President Reagan said in a statement that destroying all warheads was "the preferred outcome" of the United States and its allies. Reagan said that would ease the problem of verifying that a treaty was being observed.
The Soviets would keep the 100 warheads in Asia, targeted on Japan and other Asian countries that have pressured the United States to get them removed. The 100 U.S. warheads might be kept in Alaska, although the Soviets are fighting hard to shift them elsewhere in America.
Shultz last week delayed a final response to Gorbachev until the allies could consider the prospective U.S. pact with Moscow. Some NATO officials, as well as several members of Congress, have expressed concern about not deploying new U.S. nuclear weapons in Western Europe.
Offer to Destroy 50
Gorbachev offered also to destroy the 50 shorter-range launchers the Soviets keep in East Germany and Czechoslovakia and indicated that another 80 launchers on Soviet territory also might be dismantled.
Seeking to allay Western concerns, Shultz arranged for a government-sponsored telecast today to Belgium, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and West Germany in which he said "there are many nuclear weapons left in Europe, not considering the ones under discussion."
The secretary said that those weapons and others stored in the United States were a basis for a "flexible response" policy and that American nuclear capability would still be "quite awesome."
He referred to the strategy of threatening the Soviets with a nuclear attack if they invaded Western Europe with ground forces.
In 1981, NATO endorsed the U.S. negotiating position that all American and Soviet medium-range warheads should be destroyed.
Told to Put Fears Aside
Shultz said that if there were fears in Western Europe of such an outcome in the U.S.-Soviet negotiations that resumed today in Geneva, "they should be put to the side because the American nuclear umbrella starting with our strategic forces is awesome. . . . "
He said "a lot of thought" and close consultation with the allies went into the stand he took last week in Moscow. While Gorbachev is a vigorous and skillful partner in negotiations, Shultz said, "we shouldn't be afraid to take yes for an answer to our own proposal."
Reagan also took an upbeat approach in his statement, saying prospects for an agreement on missiles had improved even though there was "hard bargaining" ahead in Geneva.
"It is the U S. and allied determination to maintain our security, which I continue to view as indivisible, that has given us this opportunity to achieve an historic agreement which, for the first time, would actually reduce nuclear weapons," the President said.