MOSCOW — A Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman, in a turnabout that again caught Washington by surprise, indicated today that Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev soon may go to the United States to sign a treaty banning intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
Late in the day, the State Department announced that Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze will come to Washington at the end of the week to discuss prospects for a superpower summit on an agreement to ban intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
The Moscow spokesman, Boris Pyadyshev, refused earlier to say if there would be a summit this year between Gorbachev and President Reagan. And he gave no indication Gorbachev had eased his insistence that there be more progress toward resolving a renewed dispute over "Star Wars" before setting a date for a summit.
Pyadyshev said the treaty would be signed "at the highest level," and that it would be signed in the United States. But he did not say a summit would take place this year, only indicating that still is possible.
'Major Breakthrough' Near
"In a very brief period of time, we may witness a major step, a major breakthrough, in the area of nuclear disarmament," the Soviet spokesman said.
Shevardnadze summoned U.S. Ambassador Jack Matlock to a meeting today, but neither Soviet nor U.S. officials would disclose what was discussed.
The White House had no immediate comment on today's news.
Washington was stunned last Friday when a dejected-looking Secretary of State George P. Shultz told a news conference in Moscow that Gorbachev had tied a summit meeting to concessions on "Star Wars," formally called the Strategic Defense Initiative, and no dates were set for a summit.
Gorbachev Letter Awaited
Shultz said then that Gorbachev told him he was sending a letter to Reagan explaining his position, and the secretary added, "We'll be waiting for the postman."
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said today that no letter had been received.
Gorbachev's refusal to set a date for his third summit with Reagan left up in the air the future of the all-but-finished treaty that would require the two superpowers to scrap their medium-and shorter-range missiles.
Both sides agreed the document could be ready for signing within perhaps three weeks, but there was some question as to who would sign it if Gorbachev did not. There is no requirement that it be signed by the nations' leaders, and the United States would not be bound by it unless it is ratified by the Senate.
Neither Reagan nor Shultz has given any indication the United States is willing to make major concessions on Reagan's space-defense program.