Informal Exchange With Reporters

 

December 7, 1988

 

Soviet Military Reductions

 

Q. Mr. President, what is your reaction to the --  --

 

Q. Is Gorbachev trying to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its European allies by offering all these troop and arms cuts in Europe?

 

The President. I think that he is sincerely dealing with the problems that he has in his own country.

 

Q. What do you think about the troop reductions, Mr. President?

 

Q. What do you think, Mr. President, about reducing 500,000 men and 5,000 battle tanks in Europe?

 

The President. We've only heard the same as you've heard: that he has been suggesting doing something of this kind. And it remains to be seen whether this --  --

 

Q. Do you think that this will get the conventional talks underway? Is this the kind of dramatic step that could get the talks underway, sir?

 

The President. We'll have to wait and see.

 

Q. What do you think our allies will think of that plan to unilaterally reduce Soviet forces in the Eastern bloc?

 

The President. Well, I'm sure they'll -- as we will -- they'll take it for what it is.

 

Q. Is this giving them a very large propaganda advantage, since we are not prepared to make a similar kind of dramatic step, sir?

 

The President. I don't say that we're not prepared. There have been no negotiations. This is a unilateral act on their part. But we have often discussed the idea of --  --

 

Q. Well, what are you going to say to him today?

 

Q. When he asks you what do you think of the plan, how do you think you'll react to him?

 

The President.  --  -- hear what has to be said, what he has said at the United Nations, which I'm going in to get briefed on now.

 

Afghanistan

 

Q. What do you think of a U.N. role in the Afghan settlement and moving up the deadline to January 1st, 1989?

 

The President. I haven't heard anything about that. February 15th is what we're talking about in Afghanistan.

 

Q. Would we stop supplying the guerrillas on January 1st in some sort of an agreement, as he has proposed?

 

The President. Again, you're asking about things that we haven't discussed as yet.

 

Yasser Arafat

 

Q. He said the Arafat decision was wrong, Mr. President.

 

The President. Well, everybody's entitled to their opinion.

 

Note: The exchange began at 12:19 p.m. on Governor's Island in New York, NY, upon President Reagan's arrival for his meeting and luncheon with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. The last question referred to the U.S. denial of a visa to Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat for a proposed visit to address the United Nations.