US Vice President Kamala Harris spoke briefly with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Saturday in another step towards keeping lines of communication open between the two largest economies.
A White House official said Harris and Xi exchanged remarks on Saturday while on their way to a closed-door meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Bangkok.
The official said Harris echoed President Joe Biden’s comment to Xi at a meeting between the two leaders earlier this week that China and the US must keep lines of communication open to “responsibly manage the competition between our countries.” .
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to be able to speak to the media.
Relations between Washington and Beijing have been strained over trade and technology, China’s claims to the separately administered island of Taiwan, the pandemic and China’s handling of Hong Kong, human rights and other issues.
On Friday, Harris presented the US as a reliable economic partner, telling a business conference on the sidelines of APEC: “The United States is here to stay.”
Harris told leaders at the APEC summit that the US is a “proud Pacific power” and has a “vital interest in promoting a region that is open, interconnected, prosperous, secure and resilient”.
After receiving news that North Korea had launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed near Japanese waters, Harris called an emergency meeting of the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, in which she called the test missile as a “brazen violation of multiple UN security resolutions”.
“It destabilizes security in the region and unnecessarily increases tensions,” he said.
“We strongly condemn these actions and again call on North Korea to cease further illegal, destabilizing actions,” Harris said. “On behalf of the United States, I reaffirmed our ironclad commitment to the Indo-Pacific alliances.”
Her remarks at the broader APEC forum capped a week of high-level US outreach to Asia as Washington tries to counter growing Chinese influence in the region, with President Joe Biden pushing a message of American engagement in the region to the Southeast Asian nation. Asian Nations Summit in Cambodia and Group of 20 Summit in Indonesia.
Many Asian countries began to question the American commitment to Asia after the US withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which was the focus of former President Barack Obama’s “frontmanship” towards Asia.
The Biden administration is seeking to restore confidence and capitalize on growing questions surrounding Chinese investment in regional infrastructure that critics have called Beijing’s “debt trap” diplomacy.
Biden and Harris also highlighted Washington’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which was launched earlier this year.
David Rising contributed to this story.