In "Defense: Let Japan Pay" {letters, May 19}, Richard White implies that the United States pays Japan's military expenses, which creates a trade imbalance. Mr. White says the Japanese government subsidizes its country's industries unfairly with funds that otherwise would be used for military purposes. What Mr. White does not realize is that monies diverted to Japan represent less than one-twentieth of the U.S. defense budget. This relatively small amount of aid not only provides the United States with a valuable ally, but it also allows numerous U.S. military bases in Japan to track Soviet exploits.

In a sense, the entire argument is pointless. In 1946, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and his advisers drafted a Japanese constitution, which was quickly accepted. In addition to transferring all political power from the emperor to the people, the constitution forbade Japan ever to establish air, ground or sea forces for the purpose of waging war. While it is true that Japan has some military forces, they are for defensive purposes only and extremely small. If the United States withdrew all military interests from Japan, it would not persuade the Japanese to expand their own military. This would be illegal by Japanese law.

As for sanctions, limiting Japanese imports may be the only way to stop the trade imbalance. If the United States allows Japanese imports to increase at the current rate, U.S. industry will soon be completely overtaken. One way to reverse this trend would be to transfer some U.S. military funds to industry. In addition, American manufacturers must try harder to produce quality goods in greater quantities.

MORRIS WEST Silver Spring