Edmund Muskie's first State Department appearance before newsmen here May 20 was a display of his flinty directness, focused on Soviet aggression in Afghanistan and independent-minded allies like France and South Korea.
The former Maine senator quickly cleared up any doubt about the US reading of Soviet intentions in Afghanistan. His talks with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in Vienna had disclosed "no indication" of a future Russian withdrawal from that country. French President Giscard D'Estaing's sudden trip to Warsaw to meet Soviet President Brezhnev May 19, and their call for a world summit conference to ease international tensions, would have been proper topics for prior inter-allied consultation, the new secretary of state indicated. French failure to consult the US or other allies on such matters was a sign of an "independent" French policy that was "frustrating, even more, at times," Mr. Muskie told a questioning newsman.
At his own meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, the new US secretary of state said, he responded to Soviet charges that the United States had "torpedoed" the SALT II strategic arms-limitation treaty with a rejoinder that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had "eliminated any prospect" for getting SALT II ratified in the US Senate.
Though some Europeans are ignoring the US-led boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games, and others were not backing the full economic sanctions against Iran they had promised April 22, the US still considers both policies worthwhile, he said. And since 45 nations were committed to the boycott, the Moscow festivities would be not an Olympic Games but merely "an athletic event."
Mr. Muskie said his reaction to the riots, repression, and resignation of the South Korean civilian government was "deep concern." He would not speculate on how long the US would keep supporting the South Korean military men now running the country under a martial law regime.