LOS ANGELES, JULY 28 -- In a rare public appearance, Drexel Burnham Lambert Senior Executive Vice President Michael Milken said today that recent writedowns of Latin American loans have created an opportunity to implement new solutions to the debt crisis.

"We have had a major change in the carrying value by the major U.S. money center banks, in addition to other banks around the world, of the value of their loans in Latin America," Milken said in a speech to the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce.

"We have had a chance to move, let's say, from the conference room table to the marketplace."

Before his speech, Milken said he has been working on solutions to the Latin debt crisis for about three years. Earlier this month, Milken traveled to Mexico where he met with the country's president, minister of finance and other leaders as part of Drexel's bid to take a leading role in restructuring that nation's $107 billion of debt.

Milken led Drexel to prominence in the 1980s by creating the $140 billion market for risky, high-yielding junk bonds. The bonds have been used to finance growing companies and corporate takeovers.

Drexel hopes to capitalize on its research, sales and trading expertise in the junk bond market to take a leading role in creating new financial instruments that could help to solve the Latin debt crisis. Drexel's edge in this market could be in structuring the new securities so that its stable of investors who buy corporate junk bonds would also buy securities backed by Latin American debt.

In Mexico's case, the price of the new securities could be linked to the price of a major commodity in that country, such as the price of oil, according to Jerry Finneran, a Drexel senior vice president who has been working closely with Milken on solutions to the Latin debt crisis. The sale of commodity-linked bonds to investors could raise cash that could be used to purchase the Latin loans from U.S. banks. By committing the firm to actively trading these new bonds, Drexel also could make it possible for countries such as Mexico to raise capital by selling new bonds in the future.

The recent writedowns of Latin American loans by banks including Citicorp, coupled with announcements that the banks would like to sell their loans, have major implications for putting Drexel's ideas into action.

"It has been this last ingredient which has allowed this market to now, we believe, create the opportunity to be implemented," Milken said.

Milken and Drexel are subjects of a government investigation linked to the Ivan F. Boesky insider stock trading scandal. Drexel has said repeatedly that the firm is not aware of wrongdoing by any employe.

Milken did not discuss the investigation today. Instead, he focused on the relationship between Mexico and the United States.

"I think our firm and myself have tried to figure out over the years how to create value for society, how to create value for the future," Milken said, "and quite often you find out you're very successful from a business standpoint if you have found a way to create value for society.

"I have often said the best investor is a social scientist {who studies} what does the future look like, where is it going. ... . I think, on the other side of the coin, you have to figure out what does the future look like for Mexico and the United States.

"We have a common bond, a common future," Milken said.

Milken noted that the two countries also are closely tied because of their shared border and the large Hispanic population in the United States.

Milken, who is known to work long hours, was presented with a U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce alarm clock, "to help him get up at 3 o'clock in the morning."

After listening to a glowing introduction about himself, Milken joked, "I don't have the opportunity to go outside that often. It's nice to hear those things. In the trading department, people don't say nice things about each other."