BOSTON (Reuters) - America and China’s top diplomats stressed the need to manage differences and cooperate against global threats including Islamic State and Ebola, as they sought to warm the mood between their countries ahead of a summit next month.
“There are many areas that the United States and China are cooperating on, even as we have some differences that we try to manage effectively,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Boston on Saturday before a second day of talks with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi.
He listed areas of cooperation ranging from Afghanistan, the North Korea nuclear situation, Iran, climate change and counter terrorism, including the effort against Islamic State.
Yang said the aim of his visit was to prepare the way for a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama in Beijing on Nov. 12 after a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
“We believe that we should continue to work together to deepen our mutual trust and to put our efforts into major areas of cooperation, while on the basis of mutual respect we can properly handle any kind of difference between us,” Yang said.
Shared concern about Islamic State offers a rare convergence of security interests for Beijing and Washington, and a break from their more typical enmity on sensitive geopolitical issues, notably the South China Sea and matters such as cyber spying.
Kerry hosted a dinner for Yang at his Boston townhouse on Friday.
A senior State Department official said after Saturday’s talks that Kerry had raised all areas of U.S. concern about China, including human rights, Hong Kong, the South China Sea and cyber spying.
The official said the exchanges had been “candid” and went beyond a restatement of rhetorical positions. He stressed that the talks had been consultations rather than negotiations aimed at achieving concrete outcomes and the results would therefore be “incremental.”
Nevertheless, the official said, the talks had been “an extremely substantive and productive encounter” and the informal atmosphere had broken with a tradition of heavily structured dialogue between the two countries.
On the Islamic State issue, the official said China had made clear it did “not join coalitions” but shared the same perception of the threat posed by the group, and the two sides discussed how they could better coordinate their efforts.
The talks also included a discussion of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
On Monday, Kerry is to attend the inauguration of Indonesia’s newly elected president, Joko Widodo, in Jakarta, where he is expected to hold bilateral meetings with regional counterparts who share concerns about China’s territorial assertiveness in East Asia.
Yang said it was important to cooperate in the Asia-Pacific.
“We need to work together to build up even more cooperation between China and the United States in the area because this is the area that has experienced robust economic development,” he told reporters.
Analysts familiar with U.S. thinking said the talks in Boston on Islamic State would likely include discussion of intelligence cooperation, including tracking militant movements and financing.
China has significant energy interests in Iraq and its state media has reported that militants from the western region of Xinjiang have sought training from Islamic State fighters for attacks at home.
Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Eric Beech