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FILE PHOTO: Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the United States Cui Tiankai speaks during the "China and the U.S.: One Belt, One Road and 100-Day Plan," a discussion hosting high-level delegation of Chinese leaders, in Manhattan, New York, U.S., June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Bria Webb

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BEIJING (Reuters) - It is dangerous to advocate confrontation in relations between the United States and China, and wishful thinking to believe China will change the nature of its politics, China's ambassador in Washington was quoted as saying by state media on Thursday.

While U.S. President Donald Trump made a largely successful and controversy-free visit to China late last year, Trump has repeatedly threatened to get tough on what he see as unfair Chinese trade practices, and has called on China to do more to rein in its nuclear-armed neighbour North Korea.

On Tuesday, Dan Coats, the director of U.S. national intelligence, warned that Chinese cyber espionage and cyber attack capabilities would continue to support China's national security and economic priorities.

Speaking at an embassy reception for the Lunar New Year, Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai said while the two countries did have their differences, what was more important was that their common interests continued to grow.

Sino-U.S. ties "should be characterized by overall cooperation", Cui was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

"Friendly competition, if competition is necessary, and no confrontation," he added.

"We will continue to have differences between us, but our growing common interests are far more important. We may continue to have disagreements between us, but the need for cooperation will far outweigh any differences between us. We'll continue to have problems, but dialogues will lead us to solutions."

Still, China will not be forced to change, Cui said.

"It's certainly paranoid to fear that a China that follows its own path of development would be confrontational to the United States. And it's dangerous to advocate any strategy for confrontation," he added.

"It would be wishful thinking to believe that some political or cultural genetic engineering could be done to change China's DNA."

Xinhua said attendees at the event included U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs Matt Pottinger.

Other areas of disagreement include the disputed South China Sea, where the U.S. navy has sailed freedom of navigation missions to challenge Chinese claims there, and self-ruled Taiwan, claimed by China as its own but armed mostly by the United States.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editng by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Reuters