U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday agreed with Chinese Vice President Han Zheng to maintain open lines of communication and hold "senior engagements in the coming weeks," the State Department said.

The agreement was reached during their meeting in New York on the fringes of the annual U.N. General Assembly, the latest in a series of high-level direct communications between Washington and Beijing as they weigh a summit of their leaders later this year despite numerous areas of disagreement.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) and Chinese Vice President Han Zheng shake hands while posing for photos in New York on Sept. 18, 2023. (AP/Kyodo)

"From the perspective of the United States, face-to-face diplomacy is the best way to deal with areas where we disagree, and also the best way to explore areas of cooperation between us," Blinken said after they sat down at the Chinese Mission to the United Nations.

"The world expects us to responsibly manage our relationship. The United States is committed to doing just that," he told Han, when the press was present.

The meeting took place a day after the two governments said U.S. President Joe Biden's top national security aide Jake Sullivan and China's highest-ranking diplomat Wang Yi had hours of what they called "candid, substantive and constructive" discussions.

Han, who spoke first in Chinese, said other countries are longing for "steady and sound" Sino-U.S. relations, as such an improvement would benefit "the world at large" and not only the two countries.

But he noted that their bilateral ties now face "various difficulties and challenges," saying both sides need to display "sincerity, work in the same direction, and make common efforts."

As Han's current position is largely a ceremonial role in China, Blinken was unlikely to have discussions as substantive as Sullivan's over the weekend in the Mediterranean island nation of Malta.

According to the U.S. department, Blinken and Han discussed key bilateral, global and regional issues, including North Korea's "provocative actions" and Russia's war against Ukraine.

Blinken also emphasized that it is important to ensure peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

A senior Biden administration official said Sunday that Sullivan and Wang, who was initially expected to represent China in New York during this week's high-level engagements, had about 12 hours of talks for two days on various issues.

The topics ranged from Chinese military actions around Taiwan, which Beijing claims its own, and the war in Ukraine to emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and people-to-people exchanges, according to the official, who briefed reporters on the two-day meeting on condition of anonymity.

China's Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said Wang warned that the Taiwan issue is "the first red line that must not be crossed" in their relationship, as Beijing considers the self-ruled island a core interest, to be brought under its control by force if necessary.

Biden has repeatedly said he hopes to set up a one-on-one meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping by the end of this year, with U.S. officials eyeing the upcoming summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to be held in November in San Francisco as a potential chance to bring the two leaders together.

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