A Chinese diplomat said his country's cooperation in the war on terrorism has helped improve U.S. China relations. Wang Yingfan, China's ambassador to the United Nations, spoke in Los Angeles Friday.

Mr. Wang said China has provided the United States with concrete help in the war on terrorism, including diplomatic, political and economic assistance. But his country does not share the U.S. view that a change of regime in needed in Iraq, a country President Bush has cited as an international threat. Based on concerns that Saddam Hussein is developing weapons of mass destruction, Mr. Bush said removing the Iraqi leader from power is in the world's interest.

The Chinese diplomat said his country believes it is more important that Iraq open its doors to international weapons inspectors, in compliance with U.N. resolutions. That is something Iraq has so far refused to do.

"You cannot make military moves against a nation without following the rules of the United Nations, or without considering what should be done on the basis of international law," Mr. Wang said.

Mr. Wang said China shares common goals with other countries, of achieving security on one hand and economic development on the other. He said his country's policies try to balance those dual interests, especially through involvement with international bodies like the United Nations.

China's critics said its concerns for security and development come at the expense of human rights, a charge the Chinese official said is misdirected. "I think it would be nice for people to understand what are the major concerns of the Chinese about human rights. I think for those who still go hungry, the priority about human rights is food," Mr. Wang said.

Mr. Wang said his country wants to expand political rights, but he said economic progress is just as important. That point, he said, is lost on many Western critics.

Human rights advocates, however, repeatedly criticize China. They include members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent body established by Congress and the President in 1998. The commission has called for an end to the detention and ill treatment of Chinese dissidents, including minority Muslim Uighurs in the western part of the country, Buddhists in Tibet, and members of Falun Gong, a movement the Chinese government has called an "evil cult."

The commission's Lawrence Goodrich said China is disregarding international agreements signed by its leaders, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"And Article 18 of that declaration regards freedom of religion, and China is in almost complete violation of that article," Mr. Goodrich said.

Mr. Goodrich said many developing countries with problems similar to China's, in the view of his commission, have far greater human rights.

The Chinese ambassador said many critics of his country fail to understand its problems. He said others speak of human rights to promote their own political agendas.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has asked Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to raise its human rights concerns when he visits China Sunday.