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Reagan turns to Europe

By Charlotte SaikowskiStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / June 1, 1984


After a conspicuous tilt toward Asia in his recent world travels, President Reagan now goes to Europe with a view to reaffirming the Atlantic Alliance, helping lay the groundwork for a sounder global economic recovery and - not incidentally - promoting his image at home as a world statesman.

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The President's political planners do not hide their enthusiasm for a trip that will be rich in pageantry and opportunity for colorful television coverage. While the Democrats continue to battle for the presidential nomination, Mr. Reagan will be highlighting the news with his sentimental visit to Ireland, a ceremonial stop at the beaches of Normandy, and participation in the London economic summit meeting.

But as the President prepared to depart Washington today on his 10-day trip, administration officials were stressing the diplomatic importance of the journey more than its domestic political dimension.

The President's previous two journeys abroad were to Asia - Japan and South Korea last November, and the People's Republic of China in April. Washington has thus been visibly shifting its interest toward the region of greatest economic dynamism as well as growing strategic concern.

During the two Asian trips, a senior administration official says, the President forged a ''solid relationship'' with Japan and South Korea and opened up ''new opportunities'' in United States ties with China. Now, says the official, Mr. Reagan is returning to Europe to ''underscore once more the importance he places on the Atlantic partnership in both the political and economic spheres.''

Diplomatic and academic observers view the journey in the context of a recurring need to shore up the European alliance. The alliance is basically solid. But in light of the deep chill in US-Soviet relations, NATO members have been groping for various initiatives, including resurrection of the old idea of a European Defense Community, talks between West Germany and France on bilateral security integration, and such unilateral acts as the Trudeau peace initiative.

''Reagan must recognize that it is essential to touch base with the principal allies when they begin asking themselves where they stand with respect to the two superpowers, when they have an awareness of their own internal divisiveness and weaknesses, and when they see a US tilt toward Asia far beyond anything seen in other administrations,''says Charles Doran at the Johns Hopkins University.

''The Europeans want the impression to be given that the US is not turning its back on them,'' a State Department official says.

Solemn celebration of the 40th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy will provide the President an occasion to reaffirm the strong transatlantic link. According to administration officials, Reagan will recall the sacrifice made by the Allies and stress that reconciliation with former adversaries is possible. He will also emphasize that ''Allied solidarity and collective security'' have been vindicated by the long period of peace.

Throughout the trip, say administration officials, Mr. Reagan will point to the proven value of a ''renewed deterrence'' against Soviet power while making clear the ''flexibility'' in the American position and commitment to achieving arms reduction. This theme was also sounded by the President during the meeting of NATO foreign ministers here this week.

Urging the allies to remain firm in the face of Soviet efforts to divide on the deployment of new medium-range nuclear missiles, the President said ''our commitment to collective security will continue to be an indispensable bulwark against aggression, terrorism, and tyranny.''

When the Soviets decide to return to the arms negotiations, he said, ''we will be waiting, ready to meet them halfway.''