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Carter backs Reagan on neutron weapon

TOKYO -- Former President Jimmy Carter said Thursday he did 'not disagree' with President Reagan's decision to build neutron weapons in view of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Moscow-backed Vietnam's aggression against Cambodia.

Carter made the statement at an Osaka press conference following his arrival from China, where he said Chinese leaders emphasized the danger of underestimating the power of the Taiwan issue to disrupt Sino-American relations.

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The former president is scheduled to spend six days in Japan and discuss the sensitive defense issue Monday with Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki and Foreign Minister Sunao Sonoda.

Asked about Reagan's decision to produce neutron weapon, Carter said that when he was president he tried to 'engage the Soviet Union in a willingness to reduce the nuclear weapon threat.'

'It became obvious that it was a fruitless search with the Soviet Union because they invaded Afghanistan and encouraged the invasion of Kampuchea (Cambodia) by Vietnam,' he said.

As a result, Carter said, 'I do not disagree with President Reagan's decision but I hope and trust as soon as the Soviet Union is willing to implement the termination of aggression and move towards peace and the control of nuclear weapons our country will be ready to cooperate with them completely as we have been in the past.'

Carter tried to launch a neutron program in 1977 but encountered stiff resistance from western allies who argued that production of the lethal weapon would encourage war.

In April 1978 Carter announced that the United States would build components of the weapon but defer final assembly or deployment of the warheads.

Carter said before leaving Shanghai for Osaka Thursday his 10-day trip to China was interesting despite the warnings on Taiwan.

'All the Chinese leaders at the national level I met went out of their way to impress upon me the importance of this issue to them.' Carter said. 'Not as a threat but as a statement that this issue is of profound importance to them.

Carter said he would offer a 'definitive and constructive' report on his China visit to the Reagan administration but he probably would not meet the president.

'All the Chinese officials made very clear to me their very deep concern about the issue,' he said. 'If the Taiwan issue is not handled properly, if the normalization agreements are not honored, then there might be retrogression in the relationship.'

The trip to Japan is Carter's second. He was in Tokyo in 1979 for an economic summit meeting of western leaders.

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