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US, China bilateral annual summit gets underway in Beijing

The annual US-China meeting of foreign affairs, trade and other officials has opened in Beijing. The aim is to ease tension and improve cooperation between the two countries.

On the security side, tensions over China's territorial expansion in the South China Sea - which the US and its allies insist are international waters - continue beneath the surface.

At the opening of the talks on Monday, President Xi Jinping said China and the US needed to trust each other more. "China and the US need to increase mutual trust," Xi said and added that "strategic misjudgement" should be avoided.

China Fiery Cross Reef Insel im Südchinesischen Meer

A US Navy aerial photo purports to show Chinese vessels building up land on the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

"Some disputes may not be resolved for the time being," he said, but both sides should take a "pragmatic and constructive" attitude towards those issues. "The vast Pacific should be a stage for cooperation, not an area for competition," he said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry called on Beijing to join in finding a "diplomatic solution" to rising tensions between the US and Chinese navies.

Economic issues

Washington says Beijing should move faster with plans to reduce excess production capacity that its trading partners complain is driving a flood of low-cost steel into their markets, threatening thousands of jobs. The US has responded by imposing anti-dumping tariffs on steel, and EU officials say they are investigating what, if any, action to take.

"Excess capacity has a distorting and damaging effect on global markets," Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in his statement at the start of the two-day meeting. "And implementing policies to substantially reduce production in a range of sectors suffering from overcapacity, including steel and aluminum, is critical to the function and stability of international markets."

Beijing strikes upbeat tone

President Xi struck a conciliatory note Monday, saying that China would continue with its structural reforms and improve its openness to the outside.

"We have full confidence that China can achieve its goals of economic and social development," Xi said in opening remarks. He also said it was important to conclude a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.

"We must make our best efforts to achieve a mutually beneficial China-US investment agreement at an early date and create new bright spots in bilateral economic and trade cooperation," Xi added.

Both sides have called for closer cooperation between the two biggest economies on climate change, global finance, agriculture and in other fields.

US officials are pressing Beijing to ease market access for financial services, an area where foreign business groups complain China is trying to shield its companies in violation of free-trade commitments.

jar/jm (AP, Reuters)

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