No one would dispute Henry Kissinger's assertion that war -- hot or cold -- with China would have terrible consequences ["Storm Clouds Gathering," op-ed, Sept. 7]. However, Mr. Kissinger's argument that the United States should mollify Beijing at the expense of the Republic of China on Taiwan is wrong.

Mr. Kissinger calls on the Clinton administration to insist on Taiwanese restraint in formulating Taiwan's relationship with the People's Republic of China. That means Washington should force Taiwan's president, Lee Teng-hui, to drop his proposal that dealings between the mainland and the island be conducted on the basis of a special state-to-state relationship.

In the Kissinger view, that threatens the one-China framework that has kept peace in the Taiwan Strait. Not so. Peace has been maintained by military balance. The sale of made-in-America weaponry has allowed Taiwan to have credible defenses. The dispatch of American aircraft carriers induced Beijing to back off in 1996, when it tried to thwart Taiwan's presidential election by lobbing missiles toward the island.

The one-China myth was a useful device when each side claimed to be the sole legitimate Chinese state. Taiwan relinquished that notion in practical terms many years ago and abandoned it officially in 1991. Meanwhile, democratic Taiwan has matured into a flourishing society with all the attributes of an independent country.

Taiwan is willing to negotiate with Beijing. In fact, it was the communists who broke off talks in the past and who threaten to cancel the discussions scheduled for October. The People's Republic of China insists that the parties proceed on the basis of a stern motherland dealing with a prodigal offspring, with the threat of military spanking a constant. This formulation amounts to negotiating the details of Taiwan's surrender. It is unacceptable to Taiwan and should be unacceptable to the United States. If Washington is to insist on anything, it should insist that the communists give up thuggish tactics immediately.

CARL W. FORD Jr.

Germantown

The writer is a consultant for the Taiwan Research Institute.