The United States and China began high level bilateral talks on Monday in Washington which will extend through to Wednesday.
During the meetings the United States is expected to bring up the issues of human rights, cybersecurity and the South China Sea dispute.
About 400 Chinese officials have arrived in Washington to take part in Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) as well as the Strategic Security Dialogue (SSD) and the Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (CPE).
The SSD was co-hosted by Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken along with his Chinese counterpart Executive Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui on Monday.
A senior State Department official said the discussions have been “candid and to the point” when dealing with the “most sensitive issues in the relationship.”
The same official called the SSD “the highest level civilian-military conversation” that the United States has annually with China, in which participants “try to get at those issues which are the most likely to drive strategic mistrust between the US and China.”
The topics to be covered at the SSD, according to the State Department official, were maritime and strategic issues such as cyber security, mil-mil relations, missile defense, nuclear policy, and space security. Regional and international issues surrounding North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan were also on the agenda for Monday’s working lunch.
Among the points of discussion for the SSD was the South China Sea dispute, regarding which the United States “stressed that substantive diplomacy is the proper way to resolve disputes among the claimants in the region.”
The Spratly Islands - Nansha Islands in Chinese - in the South China Sea are an archipelago that has no indigenous inhabitants but may contain natural gas and oil reserves. Countries which claim rights over the Spratlys include the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and China.
Regarding cybersecurity and the recent Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hack that many believe has been carried out by the Chinese government, the senior State Department official said that at both the SSD and the two - economic and strategic - tracks of the S&ED the recent revelations “will certainly be talked about in very direct terms.”
The S&ED will be hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew with their respective Chinese co-chairs State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Vice Premier Wang Yang.
According to the Department of State, on June 23 and 24, Kerry and Yang will co-chair the strategic track of the dialogue, while Lew and Wang co-chair the economic track.
The United States and China, the State Department official said, will discuss “climate change, environmental protections, cooperation on nonproliferation challenges, and human rights” as well as “regional hotspots, global issues” and “bilateral issues.”