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New U.S. envoy to China pledges closer ties

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BEIJING — The new U.S. ambassador to China promised closer ties between "two great peoples" as he took up his post Monday amid conflict over military issues, trade and human rights.

"We both need a positive, cooperative and constructive relationship," Clark T. Randt, a lawyer and former diplomat with 20 years of experience in Asia, said in a speech in Mandarin. "To this end, I pledge my best efforts to bring us closer."

Randt arrived in Beijing one day before a U.S.-based scholar accused by China of spying goes on trial. The detention of sociologist Gao Zhan and other scholars and businesspeople with U.S. connections, as well as the collision of a U.S. surveillance plane with a Chinese fighter jet, have added to tensions with Washington.

"The United States and China are two great nations with two great peoples," Randt said outside his new official residence. "We share many similarities, among which is the common human desire of our peoples for peace, prosperity and better lives for their children."

Randt replaces Joseph Prueher, a retired Navy admiral named to the post by former President Clinton in 1999.

Toward the end of his 17-month tenure, Prueher played a leading role in negotiating the release of the U.S. spy plane crew, who were held for 11 days after the April 1 collision. Prueher, who was praised by the White House for his diplomatic efforts, reportedly was interested in remaining in the post.

A former commercial attache at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in the early 1980s, the 55-year-old Randt was a fraternity buddy of President Bush at Yale.

Before his appointment as ambassador, he was chief China lawyer at the law firm Shearman and Sterling.

Randt has helped Chinese companies sell shares to American investors and represented AT&T, Apple, Chrysler and Johnson & Johnson as they sought investments in China.

"No one could have imagined the remarkable developments that I have personally witnessed during my many visits," Randt said.

He graduated from Yale and earned his law degree from the University of Michigan in 1975.