China's US envoy urges 'practical' steps to help restore ties

Xie Feng, China's new ambassador to the U.S., arrives at JFK airport in New York

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's ambassador to the United States said the Biden administration could help restore fraught relations by starting with "practical" steps, such as renewing a decades-old pact on science and technology.

Beijing and Washington have gradually resumed dialogue in recent months despite continued tension between the world's two largest economies over issues ranging from Taiwan to U.S. export curbs on chips to China.

"We must start from me, start from now, and start from practical things that benefit the people of the two countries," Ambassador Xie Feng said at an embassy reception on Wednesday, ahead of China's National Day on Oct. 1.

"The China-U.S. Science and Technology Agreement (STA) is mutually beneficial and win-win," added Xie, who took up his posting in May. "Why not renew it as soon as possible?"

Signed when Beijing and Washington established diplomatic ties in 1979 and renewed roughly every five years since, the agreement has shown the geopolitical rivals could co-operate across a range of scientific and technical fields.

But concerns about China's growing military prowess and Beijing's strategies on science and technology have stoked U.S. fears about its own national security and intellectual property.

In a sign of easing tension in other areas, the Treasury Department said last week it was launching two new U.S.-China working groups on economic and financial issues to provide a regular policy communications forum for both countries.

This week, the United States said Beijing had allowed a U.S. soldier being expelled by North Korea to stop over in China before continuing home.

Other issues Xie flagged as suitable for action were another doubling in the number of direct flights between the two countries, and tackling the problems of visa and entry "difficulties" faced by Chinese visitors to the United States.

(Reporting by Ryan Woo; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)