UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. (UPI) -- President Kennedy invited Russians to share an expedition to the moon today in a speech before the U.N. General Assembly. Russian delegates seemed delighted.
The Chief Executive who occupied the rostrum for 28 minutes, challenged the Soviet Union to abandon the cold war for a "contest of achievement." He made a bid for joint ventures in the expensive conquest of space and accepted a Russian proposal to negotiate a ban of nuclear weapons on spacecraft.
Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko termed Kennedy's speech "very good" and "conciliatory," and permanent Soviet U.N. delegate Nikolai T. Federensko described it as "excellent." Kennedy mingled with a cluster of smiling Russian delegates after the speech for an amiable exchange of conversation.
General reaction to the Chief Executive's address to the new 18th General Assembly was was enthusiastic. Sir Patrick Dean of Britain said it was "moving and inspiring" and Sr. Muhammad Zafrullah Khan of Pakistan described it as "a real leadership speech."
A standing-room-only crowd heard Kennedy questions the wisdom of making man's first flight to the moon "a matter of national competition" in view of the waiver of claims to territorial rights in outer space made by all members of the United Nations.
Speaking before the 18th General Assembly of the United Nations which opened here Tuesday, Kennedy said he welcomed such a contest "between those who envision a monolithic world and those who believe in diversity."
For we believe, said the President, "that truth is stronger than error -- and that freedom is more enduring than coercion. And in the contest for a better life, all the world can be a winner."
Kennedy specifically outlined the areas where the Soviet Union and the United States, together with their allies could achieve further agreements, "agreements which spring from our mutual interest in avoiding mutual destruction."
Referring to a speech made to the General Assembly Thursday by Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko in which the Russian proposed an agreement with the United States to bar nuclear weapons from spacecraft, Kennedy urged that negotiators go back to the negotiating table to work out practicable arrangements to this end.
In the field of space, Kennedy said, where the United States and Russia have a special capacity, there is room for new cooperation including the possibility of a joint expedition to the moon.
Pointing to the fact that by resolution of the U.N. assembly member nations had foresworn any claims to territorial rights in out space, Kennedy asked rhetorically why man's first flight to the moon should be a matter of national competition.
"Why," Kennedy asked, "should the United States and the Soviet Union, in preparing for such expeditions, become involved in immense duplications of research, construction and expenditure?
"Surely we should explore whether the scientists and astronauts of our two countries -- indeed of all the world -- cannot work together in the conquest of space, sending some day in this decade to the moon, not the representative of a single nation, but the representatives of all humanity."
Kennedy also said we must continue to seek agreements"
-- On measures to prevent war by accident or miscalculation.
-- On safeguards against surprise attack, including observation posts at key points.
-- On further measures to curb the nuclear arms race, by controlling the transfer of nuclear weapons, converting fissionable materials to peaceful purposes, and banning underground testing with adequate inspection and enforcement.
-- On a freer flow of information and people from East and West and West to East.
Kennedy emphasized, however, that although these and other new steps toward peaceful cooperation may be possible, most of them would require full consultation with this country's allies, "for their interests are as much involved as our own, and we will never make an agreement at their expense."
He added that any such agreements would require long and careful negotiations and a new approach to the cold war -- "a desire not to 'bury' one's adversary but to compete in a host of peaceful arenas, in ideas, in production, and in service to all humanity."
The President told the hushed assembly that for the first time in 17 years of effort, a specific step had been taken to limit the nuclear arms race.
"I refer of course," Kennedy said, "to the treaty to ban nuclear tests in the atmosphere, outer space and under water -- concluded by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States -- and already signed by nearly a hundred countries. It has been hailed by people the world over who are thankful to be free from the fears of nuclear fall-out, and I am confident that on next Tuesday morning at 10:30 o'clock, it will receive the overwhelming endorsement of the senate of the United States."
Kennedy warned, however, that despite the pause we may have reached in the cold war, "the long shadows of conflict and crisis envelop us still."
He spelled out some of the basic differences between the United States and the Soviet Union which he said cannot be concealed.
A basic difference he said is the belief of the American people in self determination for all peoples.
"We believe that the people of Germany and Berlin must be free to reunite their capital and their country.
"We believe that the people of Cuba must be free to secure the fruits of the revolution that has been so falsely betrayed from within and exploited from without.
"In short, we believe that in all the world -- in Eastern Europe as well as Western, in southern Africa as well as northern, in old nations as well as new -- people must be free to choose their own future, without discrimination or dictation, and without coercion or subversion."
So long as these differences exist, Kennedy said, they set limits to agreements and "they forbid the relaxation of vigilance. Our defenses around the world will be maintained for the protection of freedom -- and our determination to safeguard that freedom will measure up to any threat or challenge."
The President struck out at discrimination and persecution everywhere in the world and reminded the assembly members they were committed by the charger of the United Nations to promote and respect human rights.
"Those rights are not respected," he said, "when a Buddhist priest is driven from his pagoda, when a synagogue is shut down, when a Protestant church cannot open a mission, when a cardinal is forced into hiding, or when a crowded church service is bombed."