The media reported correctly that U.S. and Soviet warships collided in the Black Sea. However, the circumstances leading up to the collision were not portrayed accurately in The Post's articles on the incident {news stories, Feb. 13 and 14}. The real controversy that led to this incident was not over the legitimacy of the Soviet claim to a 12-mile territorial sea, as reported Feb. 14 in The Post. Rather, it involved whether the Soviets have authority under international law to control the entry of foreign warships into their territorial waters.

Under the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention, nations may claim no more than a 12-mile territorial sea. Thus, the Soviet claim is authorized under the 1982 treaty. The United States did not sign the LOS Convention because of a controversial administration assessment in 1982 that the portion of the treaty pertaining to mining the seabed beyond national jurisdiction was flawed. Nevertheless, the Reagan administration has repeatedly embraced the non-seabed portions of the treaty, vigorously adhered to them and encouraged other nations to do so as well.

On March 10, 1983, President Reagan issued a policy statement declaring that the United States will accept and act in accordance with the treaty's non-seabed provisions. He specifically mentioned those relating to freedom of navigation, stating that this country will exercise and assert its worldwide navigation rights in a manner consistent with the treaty.

A spokesman for the Soviet Embassy stated that, under Soviet law, nations must obtain Soviet consent 30 days before sending their warships into Soviet territorial waters. At the same time, he asserted, it is the Soviets' belief that the Soviet law at issue is consistent with the 1982 LOS Convention.

The United States does not accept that the Soviet law is consistent with the 1982 treaty and maintains that warships transiting the territorial seas of foreign nations are exercising the right to innocent passage guaranteed by the treaty. According to a Defense Department spokesman, the United States began a program of asserting the right of warships to innocent passage during the Carter administration. The USS Yorktown and the USS Caron were in the Black Sea as part of this continuing program.

The irony is that the LOS Convention was negotiated to promote stability and certainty regarding international rules for use of the oceans. More than 150 nations took part in its development. All countries shared the hope that the treaty would help to lessen the need for gunboat diplomacy. In light of the tensions arising from this incident, it is time for the United States to reconsider its refusal to sign the 1982 LOS Convention or to participate in the twice-yearly international meetings convened to prepare for the treaty's entry into force. We must try to fix the treaty's mining provisions to remove the impediment to its entry into force for all nations, including the United States. LEE A. KIMBALL MIRANDA WECKER Council on Ocean Law Washington