In the customs shed at the Kieta airport on Bougainville, an inspector pointedly informs white visitors:

"There are no royal persons here."

In a tiny beer hall in the Solomons, a worker from Malaita sends the same message:

"This is black man's bar. Go to your own people."

In the Marshall Islands, a young man, high on booze, derides the unstylish clothing of an American. "Where," he asks, "do you think you are? Do you think this is a jungle?"

White men no longer rule the islands of the Pacific. They possess the economic magic of money and technology and are tolerated on that account. But the colonial era is done with. The spirit of political indendence soars. The psychic bonds of dependence and inferiority are falling away.

"Black power," a Bougainville politician has said, "is as relevant to Papua New Guinea as betel nut."

The prime minister, Michael Somare, has put it this way: "We wish to create an original society. We may borrow from others, but every idea will have a Papua New Guinea application."

In this new society, he made clear, white men would no longer be "little kings."

The war of the Pacific in the 1940s was, in a profound sense, a racial war. The Japanese demand for an Asia run by Asians was more than a propaganda slogan, and its appeal was broader than either the Europeans or the Americans conceded at the time. The British discovered this quickly when some of their Indian battalions defected to the Japanese at Singapore. The world discovered it when the war ended and Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Burma, India, Pakistan, China and the Pacific Islands took control of their own affairs.

The historian, John Toland, has recorded the proceedings of the Greater East Asia Conference in Tokyo in 1944 where the Burmese delegate declared:

"For years in Burma I dreamed my Asiatic dreams. My Asiatic blood has always called to other Asiatics. In my dreams, both sleeping and waking, I have heard the voice of Asia calling to her children. Today . . . I hear Asia's voice calling again, but this time not in a dream . . . We have once more discovered that we are Asiatics, discovered our Asiatic blood, and it is this Asiatic blood which will redeem us and give us back Asia.

"Let us therefore march ahead to the end of our road, a thousand million East Asiatics marching into a new world where East Asiatics will be forever free, prosperous and will find at last their abiding home."

A Japanese journalist wrote: "Here, I felt, all were my brothers, not merely in a figurative sense, but literally as sons of the same Mother Asia Japanese, Thai, Filipino, Burmese, Indian - Asiatics all, and, Therefore, brothers."

The racial nature of the war was fundamental and not only in a political sense. The racial hatreds ran deep. To the American troops, the Japanese were "little yellow bastards." The British saw them as "bow-legged dwarfs."

Those feelings were reciprocated and as the war proceeded the military conventions of Geneva and the Hague were ignored on both sides. A Japanese prisoner was picked up one day, half-toasted by a flame-thrower. He begged for water. A boy from Brooklyn put the lighted end of a cigarette in the prisoner's lips and slowly emptied his canteen into the sand. American prisoners were mutilated, murdered and cannibalized.

It was inconceivable then that an American candidate for vice president would one day he chastised for a remark about a "fat Jap."

Colonialism, on the old model, became an obsolete institution in the Pacific. But its vestiges remain in many of the islands, producing frictions and policy dilemmas.

Papua New Guinea, for example, has great tourist potential and a great need for dollars. It could be a fascinating place for curious westerners attracted by the sight of barebreasted women suckling baby pigs and of mud-covered, gaudily painted warriors who may or may not have eschewed cannibalism.

But the government has problems with that. Tourism means more luxury hotels and that means more visible contrasts of wealth and race and sharper distinctions between masters and servants.

It is already a problem in many of the islands. Outside Port Moresby, the Islander Hotel sits like a fortress, surrounded by high fences topped with barbed wire.

Whites gather at poolside for family fun. The women are in bikinis, the men are into beer. Black and brown waiters scurry around fetching drinks and barbecue. Outside the fence, barefoot drunken locals smash bottles on the asphalt while waiting for the liquor dispensary to reopen for another round.

Such scenes are not uncommon and they helped cause government officials and some of the Americans here to question the whole concept of "urban services" in Port Moresby.

They wonder if it is either necessary or desirable to invest scarce resources in air conditioning, elevators, automobiles and other amenities for transient visitors, mainly white, and a local minority of expatriates and civil servants.

These things grate on Charles Lapani, the government's young national planning director and chief architect of the budget. He is distressed by the contrasts in life styles between the urban elite, black and white, and the illiterate rural tribes in the interior. Other legacies of colonialism troube him.

One of them is the bureaucracy inherited from the Australians. It consists of 48,000 people, including Australians who continue to hold many of the highest ranking jobs at salaries far in excess of those paid to PNG nationals. There is no escape from that now. There are not enough nationals to fill the technical and professional jobs.

But the real problem, in Lapani's view, is the mentality of this bureaucracy. He sees it as an institution more geared to the "colonial process" than to the goals of the present government.

"Before independence," he says, "the bureaucracy made all the decisions. They are not wholly reconciled to the fact that we wish to make the decisions now."

This situation prevails in the private economy. Expatriates or "mastas," mainly Australians, occupy 90 percent of all professional and sub-professional positions in the country. There are only 55,000 of them in a population of about 3 million. But they receive in wages and profits about 40 percent of the gross national product.

The government's "national development strategy" aims at reducing the expatriate role. But there are constraints. The shortage of trained manpower is one. The dependence of the government on Australian subsidies in excess of $200 million a year is another. Its dependence on foreign investment is yet another.

Lapani and other nationalists may identify psychologically with Africa and the Third World and may turn to them for certain kinds of advice and moral support. But the real economic power lies elsewhere, as well they know.

So he simmers, talks of his frustrations and drafts economic schemes for the future.

The country is twice the size of England. Douglas MacArthur once called it the most inhospitable arena in which western troops ever fought. His biographer, William Manchester, described the conditions in World War II:

"The (Australian) diggers and the GIs . . . called themselves 'swamp rats.' The hideous tropical ulcers that formed on their feet, arms, bellies, chests and armpits were known as 'jungle rot.' Waving away the cloud of flies and mosquitoes that swarmed over mess gear was called 'the New Guinea salute.' Bugs were everywhere: biting ants, fleas, chiggers, posionous spiders and brilliantly colored, enormous insects that would land on a sleeping man and, like vampires, suck his body fluids. Twisted vines swarmed with vividly colored birds and great winged creatures with teeth, like gigantic rats. Pythons and crocodiles lurked in the bogs and sloughs, waiting for a man to stumble from the mucky trail. At night a soldier would rip away bloody-gutted leeches from his genitals and his rectum. Bug bites, when scratched, turned into festering sores."

The Japanes lost 150,000 men, the Australians and Americans more than 20,000 in battles that extended over three years on the main land mass and the outlying islands of New Britain, New Ireland and Bougainville. Adm. Yamamoto's plane was intercepted by American fighters and shot down in the jungle near Buin in southern Bougainville. It still lies out there among the orchids and ferns. The Americans radioed their success with one of the memorable messages of the war: "Pop goes the weasel."

Through it all most of the islanders here and in most of the Pacific were bystanders and spectators to a terrible conflict fought on their soil by strangers. They had no control over the choice of battlefields and no more than an uncertain interest in the outcome.

This is still forbidding land.

Hundreds of primitive tribes speaking hundreds of separate languages occupy the interior highlands, untamed and unaware that most of humanity has passed out of the Stone Age. An old tribal leader told visiting Americans last year:

"Many years ago, white man came and taught us to stop fighting. Years and years ago we fought and cut each other up and ate each other. We lived like animals. White man taught us to live like men."

He was only partly correct.

The tribal wars continue, although on a far less violent scale than wars of the white men. The "payback" tradition - an eye for an eye - continues and is being seen now in urban centers that have attracted tribesmen down from the hills.

A "cannibal style" killing was reported in Chimbu province a few weeks ago. The newspapers give periodic reports of the tide of the tribal battles: "Mopping up operations and further arrests were being carried out by three squads in Enga but fighting has stopped, police said."

That is one society. The other is the nationalistic but westernized society of the coastal cities where the future is debated by foreigners, expartriates, university professors and civil servants.

The American embassy keeps a low profile. But it throbs, nonetheless, with optimism about the economic prospects here. A commercial cable reflects the thinking:

"There are two principal types of sources for development in the PNG:. . . infrastracture projects of which the most promising are the possible 10 small to medium hydro-power projects planned for construction within the decade; and the less predictable but equally important . . . large mineral-based foreign enclave projects almost entirely dependent on copper/gold exploitation. In the long term, PNG gas deposits and the considerable amount of ongoing oil exploration augur greater opportunities."

In the American view, it is in such projects that Papua New Guinea will find its proper place in the world economy. The opportunities for multinational companies are keen:

"Australia, Japan and South Korea for equipment supply, Australia for consulting/engineering on infrastructure projects, Norway for consulting/engineering on hydropojects, Japan and South Korea for civil works, Britain for sugar, rice and oil palm projects and South Korea for timber and cement projects.

"U.S. should have opportunities for supplying earthmoving, mining and drilling equipment, hydrotubine generators and consulting/engineering for minerals exploitation and hydropower projects."

Already the multinations are moving in. The proposed OK Tedi copper mine, with estimated ore reserves of 250 million tons, has attracted a consortium that includes the Amoco Minerals subsidiary of Standard Oil of Indiana, Dampier Mining of Australia and Seimens of Germany. They are talking about an investment of $700 million. American Metals Climax and Kawasaki Steel in Japan are interested in chromite deposits. The Japanese industrial giants, including Mitsui and Mitsubishi, are studying another copper venture. Esso, Gulf, British Petroleum and Superior Oil are potential oil and gas producers.

It all suggests that Papua New Guinea has exploitable wealth. The problem for people like Charles Lapani is whether this is the way to go.

In his own way he suggests that small is beautiful. He wants development in rural areas but he does not want people separated from the land and packed into urban centers. He is skeptical of "trickle down" benefits from big industrial projects.

He is disturbed the inequalities in living standards between town and country, government and non-government, white and black.

Large-scale economic development projects very probably would exacerbate those conditions.

But Lapani and the planners are trapped. They have a huge government apparatus to support. They need new sources of revenue to underwrite their rural development schemes. They lack the capital and technology to develop their own resources at their own pace.

So they are pushed, willingly or not, toward a kind of modified colonialism in which foreign interests extract the wealth and shape the economy in some form of partnership with the government.

There is black power in the islands, but it is not so different from the old days. CAPTION: Picture, Stone Age tribesman ponders modern airplane. AP