ARMS CONTROL. New Soviet proposals on chemical weapons and arms in space

Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze added to the package of recent Soviet arms-control proposals Thursday by: Accepting for the first time mandatory challenge inspections for chemical weapons.

Urging establishment of an ``international verification system'' to prevent ``an arms race in space.''

Proposed establishment of ``an international system of global radiation safety monitoring.'

Without mentioning last year's nuclear accident at Chernobyl, that killed some 30 Soviet citizens and contaminated neighboring countries, Mr. Shevardnadze said that such a system could ``provide an additional safeguard'' in case of malfunction in nuclear power plants as well as verify compliance with any nuclear-test ban.

Shevardnadze again termed the West German Pershing 1A missiles the main ``snag'' to a Soviet-American agreement to eliminate all intermediate-range nuclear missiles (INF) with ranges of between 500 and 5500 kilometers (300 and 3,400 miles). He said that if Bonn does not concede on this point, the Soviet Union may station comparable weapons in Eastern Europe. West Germany's 72 Pershing 1A's have a range of 720 km (450 miles); the 160-odd Soviet Scuds already stationed in Eastern Europe have a range of about 300 km. In his address, Shevardnadze, the highest Soviet official ever to address the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, cast all his proposals in the framework of Mikhail Gorbachev's ``new political thinking.'' This stresses the ``common security'' of all nations in the nuclear age.

Certainly Shevardnadze's latest proposals, coming after Moscow's agreement to destroy all superpower INF missiles worldwide and submission of draft treaties to limit strategic offensive and defensive weapons last month, suggest to Western diplomats that Moscow may have finally settled on a coherent, comprehensive arms-control policy, after three weeks of apparent indecision.

A spokesman for the American delegation to the UN Conference on Disarmament said that the delegation was studying the Soviet chemical-weapons offer with interest. Until now Soviet refusal to accept mandatory challenge inspections has been one of the chief stumbling blocks to agreement on a total ban on chemical weapons.

Throughout his 45-minute speech, Shevardnadze emphasized Moscow's willingness to be forthcoming on verification, including on-site inspection - a measure it adamantly refused to consider in pre-Gorbachev years.

Shevardnadze twitted West Germany for trying to acquire nuclear weapons of its own and asked the UN disarmament group to consider whether Bonn was violating the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This was a dig at US refusal to include West Germany's 72 Pershing 1A missiles, with nuclear warheads controlled by the US, in elimination of all superpower INF, on the grounds that the Pershing 1As belong to a third country. The foreign minister made no reference to the solution currently being discussed of letting these missiles become obsolete in the early 1990s without replacing them.

More surprisingly, Shevardnadze revived use of the word ``revanchism'' in connection with West Germany. In Soviet terminology this refers to the alleged desire of some West German politicians to restore pre-war boundaries of Germany by claiming land ceded to Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union as part of the World War II settlement. The Soviets campaigned hard against West German ``revanchism'' during their emotional celebration of the 40th anniversary of war's end in 1985 but have rarely mentioned the word since then.

In response to Soviet references to West Germany a spokesman for the US nuclear negotiators in Geneva charged Moscow with trying to intimidate Bonn.

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