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President Clinton said Tuesday that he planned to nominate retired Navy Adm. Joseph Prueher as U.S. ambassador to China after Beijing agreed to the choice.

The Chinese government's acceptance, announced in Beijing earlier Tuesday, appeared to mark a new step toward repairing relations badly damaged by NATO's May 7 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, during the Kosovo conflict.

Clinton bypassed the diplomatic corps in selecting Prueher, who capped his 35-year military career with more than three years as the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific.

The admiral, who developed deep contacts with the Chinese military while serving as head of the U.S. Pacific Command, left that post in February and retired from the Navy in May.

If his nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Prueher would replace Ambassador Jim Sasser.

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