Letters to the Editor. South Africa and the UN

Speaking of the UN, Mr. de Cu'ellar states, ``Despite the regional conflicts which rage today, the world has avoided the new global conflict that was so much feared in 1945. . . .'' With respect to two articles in your Sept. 28 issue, ``South Africa -- return to regional destabilization'' and ``The United Nations at forty,'' perhaps the world could avoid regional conflict in southern Africa if all parties concerned could sit down at the UN and discuss matters. Currently, this is not possible because South Africa has been barred from the UN. Laurie Butgereit Sandton, South Africa

While it is true that Guatemala is not violence-free, it is also true that substantial improvements have been made in human rights conditions in an environment disturbed by well-backed and armed communist guerrillas trying to take over any noncommunist government [``Guatemala moves toward civilian rule,'' Aug. 8]. We Guatemalans see the elections as more than a mere ``show for foreign consumption.'' We believe the newly elected government of civilian rule will genuinely replace our military rulers, a belief obviously shared by the political parties which otherwise would not participate in the election process.

As the recently approved new constitution shows, Guatemala is indeed on the road toward a true democracy. We hope the United States and foreign press will write more positive, unbiased articles in order to bring back needed foreign investment and tourism to the country. Ren'e Muoz Guatemala City

In his article ``Dealing with the United States trade crisis,'' [Oct. 16] Rep. Toby Roth ignores some important factors that make it difficult for US manufacturers to compete with the Japanese. One factor is that the Japanese spend about 1 percent of their national budget on defense, while we spend about 15 percent of ours in this area. They rely greatly on us to provide their defense. Despite urgings by our government, they have raised this percentage only slightly.

The US should charge them for the defense we are providing by putting about a 14 percent duty on all Japanese imports!

The amount received could be used to reduce our federal deficit and the need for increased taxes. If the Japanese raise their defense expenditures or open their markets more to our products, this percentage could be adjusted accordingly. The same procedure could be applied to other countries where we are covering a large percentage of their defense costs such as Korea, Taiwan, and others. J. Clifton Carr Grand Haven, Mich.

Dimitri K. Simes's article ``Gorbachev, the beguiling neo-Stalinist,'' International Edition, Sept. 21-27, is in dubious taste. The world at large is interested in the success of the oncoming summit in Geneva. It is important to look for a constructive approach toward working for such success, and not for an atmosphere of personal rivalries between the world's great leaders. Bandrapalli Elias Hyderabad, India

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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