"I think we need to engage China on all levels and I think that ought to be our approach to that country, not one of confrontation but engagement," Negroponte said at the hearing.
 
He said he he expected to resume a US-China strategic dialogue launched by the previous deputy secretary of state, Robert Zoellick, before his resignation in July last year.
 
Zoellick had challenged China, with its rapidly growing economy, to be a "responsible stakeholder" in the global economy.
 
Negroponte said his involvement with China went back many years, pointing to his accompanying Henry Kissinger, then secretary of state, on his historic visit to China in 1972.
 
"I was involved in the first outreach to China back in the early 1970s," he said.
 
The visit eventually led to the US establishing formal relations with China's communist government.
 
Asked about his opinion on the push by Chen Shui-bian, the president of Taiwan, for a new constitution, Negroponte cited Washington's adherence to a "one-China policy" and three US-China communiques issued after President Nixon resumed contacts with China in 1972.
 
"We believe that it would be unwise to do anything that might be at cross purposes with those three," Negroponte said.
 
Pressed by one senator if the proposed new Taiwan constitution would violate the communiques, he said: "I would want to study the implications but it certainly strikes me that that would be a distinct possibility."
 
In the three communiques signed between 1972 and 1982, the US recognised that Beijing considers there is only one China, including Taiwan, but did not explicitly adopt that view as its own.