I read with interest the editorial "They Deserved This One" {July 7}, in which The Post comments on the diversion of sophisticated marine propeller milling machines and related computer technology and software by Toshiba Co. of Japan and Kongsberg Vaapenfabrik of Norway to the Soviet Union. The deplorable and unlawful diversion appears to have aided the Soviet Union in putting more quiet submarines to sea.

This is a matter of grave concern to the Norwegian people and the government of Norway. My country takes defense very seriously. It is a founding member of NATO and is one of the few countries in NATO that has delivered on the commitment to increase annual defense expenditures by 3 percent in real terms. Our defense expenditures per capita are second only to the United States in NATO.

Our strategically exposed position, bordering the Soviet Union, makes the security of Norway dependent on allied forward defense, open sea lines of communication for allied reinforcements and on early warning. Soviet submarines constitute a primary threat to all of them. The diversion of technology has thus done great harm to the vital Norwegian security interests. The Norwegian government is determined to prevent similar diversions.

The subsidiary of the Kongsberg company responsible for the illegal diversion has been dissolved and has ceased all operations. A new company has been created devoted solely to the production of armaments to OECD countries in accordance with Norway's strict regulations of arms exports.

The division of Kongsberg which forms the core of the new company has done no wrong. It has made an important and impressive contribution to Norwegian and allied defenses through participation in important cooperative projects like the F-16, the Sea Sparrow missile and most recently the highly successful Penguin missile program. It has a key role to play in the Norwegian system of military preparedness. Hitting the newly formed armaments factory would deal a serious blow to allied defenses in vital areas.

Allies cannot deal with the crimes of disloyal servants by claims for reparations. Norway proposes instead a constructive approach to common security. In response to the challenge for more quiet Soviet submarines, we have proposed that our experts on anti-submarine warfare meet their American counterparts to assess the damage caused by the diversion and to examine the requirements and options for remedial measures. Our two countries have a longstanding cooperation in this area. We should now examine ways of building on that tradition for purposes of meeting a common challenge.

Norway has taken effective action to strengthen its administrative and physical export controls. The criminal investigation into the diversion is still in progress and all aspects of the sales to the East bloc countries by the now-defunct company will be scrutinized. Those guilty will be prosecuted in accordance with the law. Naturally we have to stay within the laws of the land. The rule of law is one of the basic values we defend through our common defense effort. Our laws in some respects are too weak. They date back to 1946 and were not made to cope with illegal transfers of high technology. The Norwegian government will present an export bill to parliament as soon as it reconvenes in the fall asking for tougher penalties and extended statute of limitations. Norway will seek actively to strengthen and harmonize licensing and enforcement of the rules set by the coordinating committee of NATO countries and Japan.

Small countries depend on nations observing international rules and agreements. Norway's international record is a good one. The Norwegian government is determined to prevent another diversion by Norwegian firms.

JOHAN JOERGEN HOLST

Norwegian Minister of Defense

Washington