China's top religious affairs official reiterated on Wednesday that the country is ready to improve ties with the Vatican as long as the Holy See accepts two conditions.
The two are recognition of the one-China principle and non-interference in the country's internal affairs.
"China is ready to develop ties with the Vatican at any time on the basis of the two principles," said Ye Xiaowen, head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, during a press conference held at the Chinese Embassy in the United States.
"China's religious affairs brook no intervention by foreign forces ... and we hope the Vatican will respect the principle," said Ye, who is on a four-day US visit that started on Monday.
There are 5 million Catholics on the Chinese mainland.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao yesterday urged the Vatican to show sincerity over the two important issues and create conditions for normalizing and improving relations.
Ye also pledged that the authorities will better safeguard religious freedom as part of the country's efforts to build a harmonious society.
"The government's respect for religious freedom is sincere and consistent," he said.
"Only by respecting the religious freedom of its citizens can the country unite most of the people and achieve its goal of national rejuvenation and building a harmonious world."
Ye also told US academic and religious representatives on Tuesday that mutual appreciation and peaceful coexistence among different cultures hold the key to global harmony.
China is making great efforts to build a harmonious society, he said, adding that "we believe that Americans can understand the Chinese ideal of harmony and appreciate the beauty of China, so as to contribute to the building of a harmonious world".
(Xinhua News Agency February 22, 2008)