Donald Trump is looking forward to meeting Chinese president Xi Jinping, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, amid reports of a summit in Florida next month.
The United States’ top diplomat brushed aside months of tensions between Beijing and Washington over North Korea, trade and Taiwan when he met with Mr Xi at the end of an Asia tour, speaking of "greater understanding" between the two countries.
Much of the uncertainty was caused by a series of provocative tweets from Mr Trump, but Mr Tillerson said the billionaire president was seeking to deepen relations with China.
Mr Trump places a "very high value on the communications” that he has already had with Mr Xi, he said.
“He looks forward to enhancing that understanding in the opportunity for a visit in the future.
"We know that through further dialogue we will achieve a greater understanding that will lead to a strengthening of the ties between China and the United States and set the tone for our future relationship of cooperation."
China-US common interests far outweigh differences, & cooperation is the only right choice for both sides: Xi told Tillerson in Beijing, Sun pic.twitter.com/pUYsFYhLIz— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) March 19, 2017
Mr Xi said he had communicated with President Trump several times through telephone conversations and messages.
"We both believe that China-US cooperation henceforth is the direction we are both striving for. We are both expecting a new era for constructive development," he said.
The US diplomat’s comments about a “visit” appeared to be in reference to reports in the US last week that the world’s two most powerful leaders would meet at Mr Trump’s Florida resort next month.
Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, also said Beijing and Washington had begun laying the groundwork for a meeting.
"We have in-depth discussions on arranging a recent meeting between the two presidents and starting relevant preparations,” he said, according to Xinhua news agency.
The expected meeting in Mar-a-Lago on April 6 and 7 would be a relaxed, informal first summit between the two men aimed at further cooling tensions.
Mr Trump angered China’s Communist leaders by accepting a congratulatory call from the president of Taiwan in December.
He has also caused concern in Beijing with tweets over Taiwan, North Korea, trade, and China’s increasing military assertiveness in the South China Sea.
Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2016
their country (the U.S. doesn't tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don't think so!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2016
However, tensions eased last month when Mr Trump reaffirmed the US commitment to the One China policy, which sees the US seek ties with China rather than the island of Taiwan, in a phone call with Mr Xi, the first since he took office.
Wang Dong, an associate professor at the school of international studies at Peking University, said a potential meeting next month would be “important” for future China-US relations.
“It can help remove uncertain factors caused by Mr Trump's remarks after he took the office,” he told The Telegraph.
Mr Wang also said the meeting could help build a “personal relationship” between the two leaders.
“What is needed is for the two leaders to talk in a relaxed and unofficial way,” he said.
“I don’t think the first meeting can produce rich results, but it can define how the relationship between the two countries will develop in the future and help put them back on the right track. So we can have an optimistic expectation on the meeting.”
Following visits to Japan and South Korea, Mr Tillerson had arrived in Beijing on Saturday amid heightened anxiety as concern continues to grow over North Korea’s military ambitions.
North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been "playing" the United States for years. China has done little to help!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2017
He said on Friday that military action against the nuclear armed regime was "on the table," while Mr Trump accused the North of “behaving badly", adding that “China has done little to help".
Mr Tillerson struck a more conciliatory tone during his meeting with Mr Xi on Sunday, when the two sides agreed they would work together to ensure North Korea took a “different course”.
Pyongyang further provoked the US and China, its key trading partner and only diplomatic ally, by carrying out a rocket engine test hours before the meeting.
Additional reporting by Christine Wei