MOSCOW — Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev will definitely meet with President Reagan by the end of this year, a Soviet spokesman said Thursday.
The spokesman, Boris D. Pyadyshev, first deputy director of the Foreign Ministry Press Department, told reporters that Washington and Moscow have reached agreement on an agenda for a third Gorbachev-Reagan meeting.
Pyadyshev's statement came on the eve of Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze's scheduled arrival in Washington for two days of talks with Reagan and Secretary of State George P. Shultz.
Shevardnadze and Shultz are expected to announce a date for the summit meeting, which is "fixed for the end of this year," Pyadyshev said. But he gave no indication that the exact timing of the meeting had been worked out.
New Sense of Skepticism
In Washington, Shevardnadze's visit was awaited with a new sense of skepticism. Officials who were openly predicting an early summit last week when Shultz was in Moscow adopted a wait-and-see attitude this time. Officials said privately they did not wish to raise expectations only to risk having them dashed again by another Soviet change of mind.
When Gorbachev met in Moscow with Shultz last Friday, he refused to set a date for a meeting with Reagan. He said he did not feel comfortable about going to Washington without an agreement on substantial reductions in strategic weapons and new restrictions on space-based missile defenses.
This appeared to raise the Soviet price for a top-level meeting. Shultz and Sheverdnadze had agreed after meeting in Washington in September that a date for a summit meeting would be set if agreement could be reached on a treaty to eliminate intermediate nuclear forces.
Reagan, asked during a photo session in the Oval Office on Thursday if he could confirm Pyadyshev's assertion that a summit date was fixed, replied, "Nope. I'm going to wait until tomorrow and find out."
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said, "It's not been fixed with us. We'll discuss it when the foreign minister comes."
And State Department spokesman Charles Redman added, "We don't have any dates on the table. We are waiting for the Soviet foreign minister to arrive."
Shevardnadze's plane was scheduled to arrive from Prague, Czechoslovakia, early this morning. His first meeting with Shultz was scheduled for 9 a.m.
As a practical matter, it is up to the Soviets to set a date for a summit. During their first meeting in Geneva in 1985, Reagan invited Gorbachev to visit the United States, and Gorbachev accepted "in principle." Since then, U.S. officials have said that the invitation is open and that it is up to Gorbachev to say when he plans to take it up. It is unlikely that the United States would reject any date proposed by Moscow at this point.
A State Department official said Washington had outlined a variety of summit scenarios, beginning with the first choice of the U.S. government, which would be a 7- to 10-day coast-to-coast trip with stops in Washington, at Reagan's Santa Barbara ranch and possibly at a farm in the Middle West. The options range down from that to a one-day "quickie" in Washington to sign a treaty banning medium- and shorter-range nuclear missiles.
The official said the attitude among U.S. participants is "substantially different from last week, and I think the Soviets sense this. There is no euphoria this time.
Ball in Soviet Court
"We don't want any more games being played," he said. "We want to move the agenda forward. If they want to move, fine. If not, the ball is in their court."
According to the White House, Shultz and National Security Adviser Frank C. Carlucci planned to leave the opening meeting after about three hours to brief Reagan. A few minutes later, Shevardnadze is scheduled to confer with Reagan, formally delivering the letter from Gorbachev before Reagan leaves for his mother-in-law's funeral in Arizona.
Shultz and Shevardnadze probably will resume their meetings this afternoon and could run over to Saturday if any loose ends remain to be tied down.
Redman said Shultz and Shevardnadze would cover the usual four-point U.S.-Soviet agenda: arms control, regional issues, bilateral issues and human rights. But he said the emphasis clearly will be on completing an agreement to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
Both sides now believe that an agreement on intermediate forces will be ready for Reagan and Gorbachev to sign in Washington.
In his statement to the press Thursday, Pyadyshev said the Soviet Union is willing to go to a summit meeting as long as there is an exchange of views on a possible reduction in long-range missiles and limits on the President's Strategic Defense Initiative, the "Star Wars" program.
Pyadyshev denied, however, that there has been any change in the Soviet position. He said only that there has been "good and constructive work" since Shultz left Moscow.
William J. Eaton reported from Moscow and Norman Kempster from Washington.