US, China can expect frank talks on sea clashes: ambassador

US Defence Secretary James Mattis shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe during a meeting on the sidelines of the Asean security summit in Singapore on Oct 18

US Defence Secretary James Mattis shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe during a meeting on the sidelines of the Asean security summit in Singapore on Oct 18

The meeting paired Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe.

"And we made clear that the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows", Mattis said.

The talks were due to be held in Beijing last month but were postponed after Washington announced new arms sales to Taiwan, and US and Chinese vessels came close to colliding in the South China Sea.

Even as the United States and China butt heads over trade, their top diplomats and defense chiefs will be meeting in Washington Friday, looking to tamp down tensions on other issues that have put a chill on relations between the two world powers.

"The United States is not pursuing a policy of Cold War containment with China", Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters following the U.S.

The move, believed to be the first time the US had directly addressed the issue, came in a statement recapping high-level talks between the two sides in Washington earlier in the day.

Pompeo, while interacting with the media, said, "President Trump has made it clear that the United States seeks a constructive and results-oriented relationship with China grounded in fairness, reciprocity and respect". The annual U.S. -China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue was originally set for Beijing last month but had been called off amid rising tensions. The two have sparred, too, over the disputed South China Sea and self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis listen to Chinese Communist Party Office of Foreign Affairs Director Yang Jiechi speak as they hold a joint media news conference after participating in a second diplomatic and security meeting at the U.S. Department of State, Washington, U.S., November 9, 2018.

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However, Yang and Chinese defense minister Wei Fenghe spoke of the need to improve cooperation, including between the US and Chinese militaries, to ease the risk of conflict as the two powers jockey for pre-eminence in the Asia-Pacific.

"We want this to be a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China", Branstad said.

Mattis was also upfront that USA would continue its so-called freedom of navigation program.

Mattis added his own caution, saying that "competition does not mean hostility, nor does it lead to conflict".

It may be recalled that President Trump had slapped $250 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods, accusing Beijing of nefarious trading practices, prompting retaliatory measures. Beijing has retaliated with tariffs on $110 million worth of USA goods.

Trump and Xi announced the updated negotiation framework past year and the first meeting in the format was held in June 2017 in Washington, when the two sides discussed issues including North Korea and the South China Sea.

Speaking earlier, the Chinese government's top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said Xi and Trump reached an important consensus on the healthy and stable development of bilateral ties in a telephone call last week.Their meeting at the G20 summit would be of "great significance" in resolving bilateral problems, Wang said.

"The United States and the worldwide communities will continue to express our concerns with respect to China's repression of religious groups - Christians, Buddhists, and 800,000 to possibly millions of Muslims - that have been denied their freedoms", Pompeo said during a joint press briefing following Friday's talks. But overall, the tone of the US officials' public comments was milder than that of the Chinese.

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