BOSTON — The U.S. and China pledged Saturday to overcome mistrust, manage their differences and cooperate on key issues like combatting terrorism and the spread of the Ebola virus as President Barack Obama prepares to travel to the Chinese capital next month.
Meeting in Boston, Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi said the relationship between the two countries is mature enough to discuss disagreements while building on areas of shared interest.
"There are many issues that China and the United States are cooperating on, even as we have some differences that we try to manage effectively," Kerry told reporters as he began a second day of talks with Yang.
Yang, noting that Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping had made improved relations a priority, agreed.
"We believe that we should continue to work together to deepen our mutual trust and to put our efforts to major areas of cooperation while, on the basis of mutual respect, we can properly handle many kinds of difference between us," he said.
Washington and Beijing have recently clashed over matters including territorial disputes between China and its neighbors in the South China Sea, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, alleged Chinese cyber spying and human rights.
A senior State Department involved in the meetings said those issues were discussed in a noncombative but direct and candid way in which Kerry believed Yang had given him a "full and careful hearing." The official said any progress in those areas would likely be incremental. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the diplomatic exchange by name.
Kerry noted that the two countries are working together on efforts to rein in nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea and have a common goal in curbing Islamist extremism, climate change and Ebola.
China is among several countries the Obama administration has implored to step up efforts to fight the Ebola virus by contributing more to the international campaign to stop its spread from the source in West Africa.
Kerry is hosting Yang in his hometown for two days of discussions ahead of Obama's trip to Beijing for a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in November. On Friday, Kerry opened his home in Boston's tony Beacon Hill neighborhood to Yang for a dinner. Kerry and Yang finished their talks with a tour of the Adams' family home in nearby Quincy, where the second and sixth presidents of the United States, John and John Quincy Adams, lived.
The senior State Department official said the informal nature of the discussions allowed for a more robust discussion than the formally structured dialogue that the sides normally have.
The meetings follow talks in Washington earlier this month between Kerry and China's foreign minister during which they aired differences over Hong Kong.
After his meetings with Yang on Saturday, Kerry will travel to Indonesia for the inauguration on Monday of its new president, Joko Widodo, who won a July election.
On Tuesday, Kerry will go to Berlin to meet with Germany's foreign minister before returning to Washington.