The new US ambassador to China said on Wednesday he would like to see terminally-ill Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo get treatment abroad after prison officials granted him medical parole.
Ambassador Terry Branstad arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, one day after Liu's lawyer revealed that the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate had been hospitalised after being diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer in May.
Human rights groups have called on Chinese authorities to give Liu the chance to seek treatment abroad while the US embassy has urged Beijing to let him move freely and choose his own doctors.
"Obviously our heart goes out to him and his wife and we're interested in doing what can be done to see if it's possible," Branstad told a news conference at his diplomatic residence.
"We as Americans would like to see him have the opportunity to have treatment elsewhere if that is of help," Branstad.
Liu's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, told AFP that people on medical parole usually cannot leave the country, but if he was treated as a "special case" it would be possible for him to seek treatment abroad, according to Chinese law.
Branstad, the former governor of Iowa, was confirmed by the US Senate last month.
The 70-year-old has known Chinese President Xi Jinping since the mid-1980s, when the Asian leader visited Iowa as a provincial official.
"It's important we work together as two countries to address human rights issues," Branstad said.
"Because of the relationship I have with both President Xi and President (Donald) Trump I hope I can be a go-between between (the two countries) on these challenging issues in the future."
His remarks came a day after the Trump administration listed China on a list of the world's worst human trafficking offenders.
It marked the first significant rebuke of China's rights record by the Trump administration, which has avoided harsh criticism of Beijing as the president seeks to establish a working relationship over deep trade differences and North Korea's nuclear programme.