Pope Francis leaves the St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome on August 18, 2014
"You ask me if I want to go to China? Certainly, even tomorrow," he told reporters on board the papal plane as he returned from a visit to South Korea.
"But the church asks for the freedom to do its job in China, there is no other condition," he said.
During the five-day visit to the divided Korean peninsula -- his first to Asia -- the pope called for countries like China and Vietnam that do not have formal ties with the Vatican to accept a "dialogue" with Rome, insisting that Catholics did not view Asia with the mentality of "conquerors".
Speaking on Monday as the Korean Airlines plane he was travelling in flew over China, he said the Vatican is "always open to contact" and that he has a "high regard" for the Chinese people.