U.S. and Chinese foreign policy chiefs agreed to continue engagement and communication in their two-day talks in Hawaii through Wednesday, at a time when ties between the world's two major powers have become strained over the novel coronavirus and Hong Kong.
The United States urged China to pursue mutually beneficial economic, security and diplomatic policies, while calling on it to be fully transparent regarding the virus pandemic and to share relevant information in a timely manner.
The U.S. State Department did not say if there was any agreement reached between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chinese foreign policy chief Yang Jiechi in its statement released after the meeting in Honolulu.
"The secretary stressed important American interests and the need for fully reciprocal dealings between the two nations across commercial, security, and diplomatic interactions," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
She added that Pompeo had underscored the need "for full transparency and information sharing" to combat the pandemic and curb future COVID-19 outbreaks.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Yang told the United States to stop interfering in China's internal affairs, including those of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang.
The meeting was requested by China, according to U.S. media. The previous known meeting between Pompeo and Yang, who is a member of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee, was last August.
The two held phone talks in April this year, but there have been no signs of an improvement in relations as the two countries continue to spar over how the novel coronavirus originated and quickly snowballed into a worldwide pandemic.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has blamed China for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the pandemic, alleging Beijing covered up the outbreak in the nation and has prevented the world from knowing its precise origins.
The United States has also fiercely attacked China over its recent move to enact security legislation on Hong Kong, with Pompeo calling the move "a death knell" for the high degree of autonomy that Beijing promised for the former British colony.
In May, China's parliament passed a resolution to introduce a national security law to crack down on what Beijing views as subversive activity in Hong Kong, further antagonizing pro-democracy protesters in the territory and drawing international condemnation.
Under China's "one country, two systems" policy, Hong Kong was promised it would enjoy the rights and freedoms of a semiautonomous region for 50 years following its return to Chinese rule in 1997.
If the legislation is enforced, even people in Hong Kong who criticize Beijing may be accused of sedition, making a sham of the one country, two systems framework, foreign affairs experts warn.
In Hong Kong, large-scale demonstrations sparked by a now-withdrawn controversial extradition bill with mainland China morphed into an anti-government movement last year, with protesters seeking a probe into police use of force and more democracy.
On Thursday, the standing committee of the National People's Congress started to discuss a draft bill of the national security law on Hong Kong, China's Xinhua News Agency reported.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has emphasized that the legislation for the special administrative region would not undermine freedoms and human rights in the territory.
Adding to tensions in the bilateral relationship, Trump on Wednesday signed into law a bill aimed at imposing sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for human rights abuses against the country's Muslim Uyghur minority.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday voiced strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to Trump's move, saying the matter is "purely China's internal affairs and no foreign interference is allowed."
The United States has been particularly concerned about what it calls the arbitrary detention of more than 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in internment camps in China's far-western Xinjiang autonomous region.
China calls the institutions vocational training centers and claims they are necessary to combat terrorism and religious extremism.
Under the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, which Trump signed, the president should provide a report to Congress that identifies officials responsible for torture and other inhumane treatment of Muslim minorities and others in Xinjiang no later than 180 days after the law's enactment.
Those deemed responsible would face sanctions such as asset freezes, denials of entry into the United States or visa revocation.
Both chambers of Congress passed the bill in May with bipartisan support.