The U.S. ambassador to China says the United States will keep pressing Beijing to make progress on human rights. The diplomat is urging American businesses to help on rights issues.

In a rare public speech, Ambassador to China Clark Randt told a business group that Beijing can improve its international standing by improving its approach to human rights.

"We already accept China as a great nation, Chinese people as great people with [a] long and rich history and culture," said Mr. Randt. "But if China wants to be accepted both as [a] respected and responsible member of the international community, then China must abide by certain internationally accepted forms of behavior."

Washington has long criticized China for jailing people for the peaceful expression of unauthorized religious or political views. Ambassador Randt listed a dozen specific cases of political prisoners and urged Beijing to release them on humanitarian and other grounds.

In the past, such high-level attention has prompted Beijing to release Tibetan independence advocates and other prisoners of conscience.

Mr. Randt, a former corporate lawyer, urges American businesses to help. "Promoting human rights and religious freedom is by no means the exclusive domain of the U.S. government or NGOs," he stressed. "American companies and their representatives in China can and should lead by example."

He says China's new membership in the World Trade Organization will improve the rule of law, which will improve the nation's approach to human rights.

Human rights advocates have warned Washington not to trade China's help in the war against terrorism for American silence on human rights issues. The ambassador says no "devil's bargain" was made in exchange for Beijing's political and intelligence help against terrorist groups.

He says the September 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed thousands of Americans and the Bali bomb that killed hundreds of people made it clear to both sides that they have more to fear from terror groups than they do from each other.

Mr. Randt says China appeared to be sympathetic to U.S. concerns about North Korea's nuclear weapons program. China is North Korea's most important ally. The ambassador says the Americans and Chinese agree that a non-nuclear Korean peninsula is an "opportunity to work together toward a common, mutually beneficial goal."