WASHINGTON -- The United States and the Soviet Union announced today they have reached general agreement on a SALT II pact for further limitation of strategic weapons.
Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, the principal U.S. arms negotiator for the past two years, made the historic announcement at the White House nearly seven years after the second round of strategic arms limitation talks began.
Some technical drafting problems have to be worked out by teams of negotiators in Geneva before the full treaty package is released.
That work is expected to take two or three weeks, but no major difficulties are anticipated.
The negotiations, which began in 1972, produced a 100-page treaty package that will limit each side to 2,250 nuclear weapon launchers or bombers by the end of 1981. It will also limit the kinds of technology that can be used in the launchers.
A treaty banning antiballistic missile systems, signed in 1972, remains in effect.
Critics claim Soviet compliance with SALT II is not verifiable, especially with the loss of two key U.S. monitoring bases in Iran. They contend the treaty guarantees the Soviets an unacceptable edge in total nuclear explosives -- 10.8 million pounds to the U.S. total of 7.2 million pounds.
Backers of the treaty say that is essentially offset by the U.S. superiority in the number of warheads -- 9,550 to the Soviet total of 4,950.
The new agreement incorporates several historic firsts:
-- The United States and the Soviet Union have agreed on exact parity of launchers in their nuclear arsenals.
-- The Soviets have produced figures on their own nuclear arsenal, the "data base" that will be the starting point for the weapons limits.
-- Actual destruction of nuclear weapons will be involved, including 270 on the Soviet side to get them under the 2,250 limit before the end of 1981. Both sides must be down to 2,400 launches within six months of the treaty going into effect.
The package includes:
-- A treaty that consists of a preamble and 19 articles. It limits the total nuclear arsenals on both sides, but also places sublimity on certain kinds of weapons, including 820 land-based ICBMs with multiple warheads, 1,320 missiles or bombers to be counted on Mirvs, and 1,200 Mirv missiles.
-- A protocol that expires at the end of 1981 and restricts both sides from deploying land-based mobile ICBMs, sea-launched and ground-launched strategic cruise missiles and ICBMs carried aloft in aircraft.
-- A joint statement of principles, in which both sides commit themselves to further negotiations, including a reduction of air defense systems, and opens the possibility that the next round of SALT negotiations may include other nations, as well as tactical nuclear systems.
-- In addition, there are some 70 "agreed statements" or "understandings" spelling out in further detail the restrictions in the treaty and protocol.