The Washington Times, a daily newspaper that describes itself as "a product of the vision of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon," made its debut here last week with a prototype edition and is scheduled to begin full production in May at its own plant in Northeast Washington.

The paper, well-equipped and evidently well-financed, was created to meet what it called "the compelling need for another source of news and information in the nation's capital," where The Washington Post is currently the only areawide daily of general circulation.

As with its sister paper in New York, the News World, the Times has an open, straightforward, conservative approach to domestic and international affairs. Its mission is to disseminate those views to Washington-area readers, its editor says.

"I really believe that our nation is at peril because we don't have an alternative voice in the nation's capital," James R. Whelan, the Times' editor and publisher, said in an interview. "I can't remember a time when the right was adequately represented in daily print journalism here."

Whelan, 48, is a career journalist who until the end of February was editor of the Sacramento Union, which is owned by the deeply conservative Richard Mellon Scaife. Before that, Whelan was editorial director of the equally conservative Panax Newspaper chain, and a correspondent in Washington and Latin America for United Press International and Scripps-Howard.

He said the Washington Times would be "a serious newspaper, to be run by the highest professional standards." The Times is recruiting a staff through advertisements in the trade magazine Editor & Publisher. Whelan acknowledged, however, that the task of finding the high-quality journalists he says he wants is complicated by the credibility problem inherent in the Times' association with the controversial Korean evangelist.

"Judge us by what we do," he said. "We have to persuade people that we aren't kidding and this is a serious newspaper." He said his contract with News World Communications Inc., the newspaper unit of the Unification Church's business empire, "guarantees in writing that I have complete control of the editorial product . . . I have the highest confidence in the integrity of these people. Nobody is going to order me what to print, and I'd walk away if they did."

Unlike other organizations that have tested the economic waters of launching a Washington daily since the Star folded last August, News World Communications was not deterred by the likelihood of losing vast amounts of money. Whelan said the Times hopes to be profitable, but if necessary the parent organization will subsidize it indefinitely. In the beginning, in fact, the Times does not even plan to solicit advertising.

With funds supplied by News World Communications, the Times has already bought a printing plant at 3600 New York Ave. NE for $1.6 million, ordered a new eight-unit Goss Urbanite offset press, and purchased a computerized typesetting system. Whelan said he would hire a "start-up staff" of 125 to 150 writers and editors, which would be larger than the news staffs of many long-established dailies.

The president of News World communications is Bo Hi Pak, Moon's translator and longtime close associate. Pak was a central figure in the Korean influence-buying investigation here in the mid-1970s. He acknowledged in congressional testimony in 1978 that he received cash payments from the South Korean CIA, but said he was only a conduit for funds to reimburse others for anticommunist activities.

Pak, a former intelligence officer in the Korean army who served at the embassy here, was the founder of Moon's Korean Cultural and Freedom Foundation, and a director of Moon's International Cultural Foundation. According to the 1978 report of an investigation into Korean activities here by the House Foreign Relations subcommittee on international organizations, the former was a vehicle for disseminating Moon's religious message and the latter supported projects that were "part of his organization's overall goal of controlling major institutions in the United States and other key nations and of influencing political decisions and policies."

Robert Boettcher, who was counsel to the subcommittee that conducted the influence-buying inquiry, described Pak as a "model Moonie," dedicated to spreading the message of "the Master," whose home in Arlington was a center for Unification Church recruitment.

Pak said in a statement last week that Whelan, not he, would have "complete responsibility for and control over the editorial content of the newspaper, and will direct staffing and organization of the paper." Pak said it is "our goal to build The Washington Times into one of the top 10 papers in the world."

In its prototype edition, published last Monday--only 48 hours after Whelan arrived here from Sacramento--the Times said it "will not be a church paper, nor will it be a voice serving the interests of the church." The Times likened itself to the Christian Science Monitor, the respected paper financed by the Christian Science church, and the Deseret News, the Mormon-run daily in Salt Lake City.

The prototype was an eye-catching 20-page package of news stories by reporters identified as Times staffers, features purchased from U.S. News and World Report and the Los Angeles Times, and opinion columns by such prominent conservative writers as M. Stanton Evans, Kevin Phillips and William Rusher.

On the front page, the paper reproduced a letter of welcome from Mayor Marion Barry, who said that "as a man who firmly believes in democratic principles, I recognize the value of choice and variety of opinions."

At the top of the feature section was a column of society chitchat by Betty Beale, who was the Star's party reporter and society columnist for many years.

The Times said it expects to move to its New York Avenue plant in May and begin Monday-through-Friday morning distribution, mostly by street sales, at that time. Meanwhile it is being edited in temporary quarters in the National Press Building and printing mock-up editions on the presses of the Alexandria Gazette.

Edward Neilan, publisher of the Gazette, said the Times has a two-month contract with the Gazette and an option to renew it.

Until the end of February, the plant at 3600 New York Avenue NE that will house the Times was the headquarters and warehouse of Parsons Paper Co. Thomas Chambers, Parsons' president, said his firm had been looking to move to larger quarters, outside the District, for some time, and had recently acquired a site adjacent to a rail siding in Landover.

With financing obtained through the sale of Maryland industrial revenue bonds, Parsons built a new facility that could house all its operations under one roof, he said. News World Communications, he said, asked Parsons to vacate the New York Avenue plant by Feb. 1, but "I said there was no way we could get out by then." All 110 Parsons employes have now moved to the new site, he said.

Whelan said the site of the Times plant, next to the National Arboretum, was "ideal" because of its access to a railroad siding and major highways.