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Kremlin Again Assails U.S. for Chemical Arms Move

December 19, 1987|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — The Soviet Union on Friday renewed its criticism of the U.S. decision to resume production of chemical weapons, with a suggestion that the United States is undermining talks in Geneva to eliminate such weapons.

Viktor P. Karpov, the chief Soviet arms control expert, indicated that the U.S. decision appears to be a rejection of the Geneva efforts to outlaw chemical weapons.

Western analysts here said Karpov's statement seemed to be part of an orchestrated Soviet move to make it appear that the U.S. government is breaching understandings reached at last week's summit conference in Washington to move toward eliminating toxic weapons.

The subject was raised at the Washington meetings of President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev and is to be taken up again when the Geneva talks are resumed after the holidays.

The U.S. Department of Defense said Thursday that it plans to start making chemical weapons again after a lapse of 18 years. The weapons are of the binary type, consisting of two chemical elements that are harmless until brought together in the burst of a bomb or warhead or artillery projectile.

Karpov said in an interview with Tass, the Soviet news agency, that U.S. production of binary chemical weapons "questions the very intention of that country to conclude a convention that would prohibit and destroy chemical weapons."

He said the resumption of chemical weapons production "is at odds with the commitment of the American leader, expressed at the recent meeting with the Soviet leader, to work out a verifiable, comprehensive and effective convention" on chemical warfare.

The Soviet Union, he said, has halted production of chemical arms, and he said the Soviet Union has no binary weapons.

But military experts say the Soviet armed forces have a huge store of chemical weapons produced over a period of many years before the halt was ordered.

In the Washington talks, Karpov said, "we put forward a number of proposals paving the way for drafting the convention as early as 1988." The United States, he said, by resuming production "is pursuing a course toward delaying the talks."

"Why is the United States starting up chemical warfare production just now?" Karpov asked, and proceeded to answer his question by saying that Washington would like "to keep binary weapons out of any would-be ban" on chemical warfare.

"Otherwise," he went on, "what is the sense in wasting money on arms that would be subject to elimination anyway?"

In Washington, State Department spokesman Charles Redman replied: "Our binary program will in no way seek to match the magnitude of the Soviet effort. As binaries are produced, we will be reducing our existing and aging stockpiles. Although modest in scale, the U.S. program will produce a safer and a more credible CW (chemical weapons) deterrent.

"The U.S. continues to pursue an effective and verifiable global ban on chemical weapons, but until such a ban has been concluded, it's only prudent to maintain a small but credible retaliatory stockpile." Redman said of the Soviet criticism: "It's difficult to take seriously these kinds of statements by Soviet spokesmen, coming as they do from the country which has by far the world's largest CW capability."

The U.S. unilaterally stopped production of chemical weapons in 1969, while the Soviets continued to build up their stockpile.

Times staff writer Jim Mann, in Washington, contributed to this article.

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