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VP Harris has brief encounter with China’s leader Xi

BANGKOK (AP) — U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke briefly with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Saturday in another step toward keeping lines of communication open between the two biggest economies.

A White House official said Harris and Xi exchanged remarks Saturday while heading into a closed-door meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum’s summit in Bangkok.

The official said Harris echoed President Joe Biden’s comment to Xi at an meeting between the two leaders earlier in the week that China and the U.S. must keep lines of communication open to “responsibly manage the competition between our countries.”

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to be able to speak to the media.

Relations between Washington and Beijing have suffered frictions over trade and technology, China’s claims to the separately governed island of Taiwan, the pandemic and China’s handling of Hong Kong, human rights and other issues.

On Friday, Harris pitched the U.S. as a reliable economic partner, telling a business conference on APEC’s sidelines, “The United States is here to stay.”

Harris told leaders at the APEC summit that the U.S. is a “proud Pacific power” and has a “vital interest in promoting a region that is open, interconnected, prosperous, secure and resilient.”

After receiving news that North Korea had fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed near Japanese waters, Harris convened an emergency meeting of the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Canada in which she slammed the missile test as a “brazen violation of multiple U.N. Security resolutions.”

“It destabilizes security in the region and unnecessarily raises tensions,” she said.

“We strongly condemn these actions and again call on North Korea to stop further unlawful, destabilizing acts,” Harris said. “On behalf of the United States I reaffirmed our ironclad commitment to our Indo-Pacific alliances.”

Her remarks at the broader APEC forum capped a week of high-level outreach from the U.S. to Asia as Washington seeks to counter growing Chinese influence in the region, with President Joe Biden pushing the message of American commitment to the region at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Cambodia and the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia.

Many Asian countries began questioning the American commitment to Asia after former President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which had been the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia.

The Biden administration has been seeking to regain trust and take advantage of growing questions over strings attached to Chinese regional infrastructure investments that critics have dubbed Beijing’s “debt trap” diplomacy.

Biden and Harris have also highlighted Washington’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, launched earlier this year.

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David Rising contributed to this story.

Krutika Pathi, The Associated Press