WASHINGTON — With only a week remaining before his summit meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, President Reagan said Monday that the two nations are "pressing ahead" with negotiations to reduce long-range nuclear arsenals but added: "We must never be afraid to walk away from a bad deal."
Meanwhile, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater indicated that it appears unlikely the three-day summit will produce a breakthrough in the effort to reduce Soviet and U.S. strategic missile arsenals by half. There had been speculation that the summit might be extended if the two leaders made progress toward an agreement on long-range missiles.
"Looking at the point we are now in the (strategic arms) negotiations and the number of issues that have to be dealt with, it seems unlikely we would have the kind of breakthroughs that would demand additional time," Fitzwater told reporters.
Reagan's comments, which came during a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation, apparently were an effort to quiet conservative fears that he will go too far in making arms control concessions to the Soviets.
"Our Geneva negotiators have made progress" toward an agreement to reduce intercontinental missiles, Reagan said. "But as I've said repeatedly, I've waited six years to get an agreement that is both reliable and verifiable," with no plan yet resolved.
"We must never be afraid to walk away from a bad deal. On that point, there is no negotiation," he said.
The President repeated his pledge to go forward with his Strategic Defense Initiative, the proposed space-based missile defense system that has been dubbed "Star Wars," rather than bargain it away in return for reductions in Soviet long-range missiles.
"The Soviets must stop holding strategic offensive missile reductions hostage to measures that would cripple our research and development of SDI," Reagan said. He asserted that the Soviets are planning an anti-ballistic missile system that would dwarf SDI.
(In an interview with NBC Television anchorman Tom Brokaw, broadcast Monday evening, Gorbachev confirmed that the Soviet Union is working on its own version of the SDI program.)
Reagan also repeated his accusations that Soviet construction of the Krasnoyarsk radar grid in the heart of that country amounts to "an out-and-out violation" of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that bans such defensive measures.
As a result, Reagan said, SDI is a "vital insurance policy . . . a cornerstone of our security strategy for the 1990s and beyond."
He also asked the conservatives to rally behind a treaty eliminating ground-launched intermediate-range nuclear weapons. The agreement, which Reagan and Gorbachev plan to sign during the summit, will be the first ever to ban an entire class of nuclear weapons, those with ranges of from 300 to 3,000 miles.
The treaty, he said, includes "the most stringent verification regime in the history of arms control negotiations. I would not ever settle for anything less." Reagan told the conservative group that human rights issues will be a primary focus of his talks with Gorbachev. He expressed skepticism about the Soviet leader's closely watched policy of openness, known as glasnost , which Reagan described as "a promise as yet unfulfilled."
"Those of us who have lived through the last 70 years remember earlier moments of promise in Soviet history, temporary thaws soon frozen over by the cold winds of oppression," the President said.