A continuing aviation dispute between the United States and Japan escalated yesterday when Japan announced a series of sanctions against U.S. airlines in retaliation for steps taken earlier this month by the Civil Aeronautics Board against Japan Air Lines.

Japan's Transport Ministry said the new sanctions include freezing applications from U.S. airlines for rights to fly beyond Japan to other destinations and requiring U.S. carriers to file additional data such as the number of passengers carried on flights beyond Japan.

The Ministry warned that if the United States takes further steps to restrict Japanese air operations to or within this country, "the Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau will take necessary measures against U.S. airlines to maintain a balance between the airlines of each country."

Japan's Transport Ministry also expressed "strong regret" over the U.S. rejection of its diplomatic note asking the United States to withdraw the sanctions imposed by the CAB against Japan Air Lines on Dec. 14. The note, delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, had also warned that Japan would "reserve the right to take necessary countermeasures" if the restrictions weren't rescinded.

The CAB's actions had been taken in retaliation for Japan's refusal to permit United Airlines to fly to Tokyo from the U.S. cities of Seattle and Portland. The CAB said Japanese failure to permit United to fly to Tokyo violated the two countries' air services agreement.

The CAB ordered JAL, Japan's flag carrier, to file its flight schedules for existing or planned service to U.S. cities--considered a first step in any future board action to limit that service. Among other things, the CAB also deferred action on a JAL application for permission to mix passengers bound from Tokyo to Los Angeles and to Brazil on the same transpacific flights to the U.S. West Coast.

The CAB also said it had sent a confidential memorandum to President Reagan recommending additional sanctions against JAL's permit authority but requesting that no action be taken before the next round of U.S.-Japan aviation talks is completed. They are scheduled to begin in Tokyo on Jan. 11.

The current dispute is the latest in a long-standing aviation argument between the two countries. Japan has contended that the air agreement, signed in 1952 in a "post-war" atmosphere, is "imbalanced" in favor of the United States. Pointing out that many U.S. airlines fly to Japan under the agreement, Japan has sought for JAL the right to serve additional U.S. cities and to fly beyond America to additional cities in other countries.

The United States sees the agreement very differently and doesn't consider it imbalanced. For instance, U.S. sources note that JAL flies to five U.S. cities while U.S. airlines can fly to only two Japanese cities. JAL also carries more passengers between the two countries than all of the U.S. airlines combined, according to U.S. sources. The United States also permits Japanese charters to fly here--300 last year--while the Japanese severely restrict the ability of U.S. airlines to fly charters there, U.S. sources said. Last year, U.S. airlines flew 10 charters to Japan.

Nevertheless, the U.S. government has said it is willing to give JAL more U.S. cities but in exchange wants to ensure that U.S. airlines have better access to Japanese airports, more charter authority, and greater pricing flexibility.