WASHINGTON — President Reagan, hailing agreement in principle with the Soviet Union on "a truly historic treaty" abolishing intermediate-range nuclear missiles, pledged Saturday to forge ahead with negotiations to reduce by half the superpowers' arsenals of long-range nuclear weapons.
But Reagan vowed in his weekly radio address that "I will not sacrifice" the Strategic Defense Initiative, the so-called "Star Wars" program aimed at establishing a space-based missile defense system, when he meets in summit talks this fall with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
As the President delivered the brief broadcast from Camp David, Md., conservative opposition surfaced to Friday's announcement that representatives of the United States and the Soviet Union had moved to ban an entire class of intermediate-range nuclear arms.
Republican presidential candidate Alexander M. Haig Jr., a retired general who commanded North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces after serving as a White House adviser to two GOP Presidents, said he opposes the accord because "it makes conventional war in Europe more likely by eliminating the backbone of our European deterrent."
Three other declared and undeclared GOP presidential candidates, all of them appearing Saturday at a Michigan Republican leadership conference, reacted without enthusiasm for the proposed treaty. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas expressed skepticism and television evangelist Pat Robertson and New York Rep. Jack Kemp expressed opposition to it.
The agreement reached by Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze in three days of talks in Washington calls for the United States and the Soviet Union to destroy a total of about 1,000 mid-range missiles.
In his radio talk, Reagan said that the two sides not only reached a consensus on eliminating intermediate-range missiles but also had agreed "to forge ahead toward another historic objective, cutting our strategic nuclear arsenals in half."
He also said that "we agreed to begin formal negotiations on verifying existing nuclear testing treaties."
In discussing the agreement on intermediate-range missiles, Reagan said: "I'm proud that these were American proposals which the Soviets have come around to accept, but I made clear to the Soviet foreign minister that I will not sacrifice our SDI program."
'Moving Forward With SDI'
And, Reagan noted, the Pentagon said Friday that "we're moving forward with SDI to demonstrate and validate six promising technologies" in the effort to develop a space-based defensive system.
Reagan said he expects to sign the treaty on intermediate-range missiles "later this fall at a summit" but gave no details of the scheduling of his expected meeting with Gorbachev. At the summit, he said he would press "our insistence on better Soviet performance on human rights and regional conflicts.
"Our agenda is both peace and freedom," the President said, "and when I meet Mr. Gorbachev again later this year, this is the agenda I will pursue."
Reagan's comments in the radio address appeared aimed at mollifying the concerns of conservative Republicans that the agreement on intermediate-range missiles fell short on several points.
Haig, in a statement read to reporters by an aide, said that the agreement "throws the defense of Europe more heavily on our strategic deterrent and does nothing to correct strategic imbalances."
Haig also contended that "it ignores aggressive Soviet behavior in Afghanistan and elsewhere, once again allowing the Soviets the luxury of a selective relaxation of tensions." Sen. Dole, addressing a luncheon session of the GOP conference at Mackinac Island, said that "there probably would be" such a treaty and expressed confidence that Reagan would submit a pact to the Senate that contained adequate verification measures.
But he added: "Healthy skepticism is probably a good thing when you are dealing with the Soviet Union."
Times staff writer Robert Shogan contributed to this story from Mackinac Island, Mich.