NASA Administrator Charles Bolden made the remakes at an event hosted by the Washington-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he discussed his agency's role in U.S. international affairs.
"Since I only views civilian space, I see them as a potential partner," he said. "They're already a partner in some areas" such as Earth and lunar science, including collaborative research with the Chinese Academy of Sciences on geodetics and glacial characterization in the Himalaya region.
"So there are potential areas of partnerships there, but because of congressional restrictions right now, we are limited to merely multilateral activities," he said. "Engagement always beats isolation. Engagement always beats trying to do things on their own."
U.S. Congress passed a law in 2011 that prohibits NASA from hosting Chinese visitors at its facilities and working with researchers affiliated to any Chinese government entity or enterprise.
On Sunday, China said it's open to space cooperation with all nations including the United States, since cooperation between major space players will be conducive to the development of all mankind.
"China will not rule out cooperating with any country, and that includes the United States," said Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut, on the occasion of the first China Space Day.