The US and China started their annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing on Monday, as rising tensions in the South China Sea threatened to overshadow the meeting.
"China and the US need to increase mutual trust," Chinese President Xi Jinping said in opening remarks, calling for redoubling of efforts for the two powers to manage conflicts and avoid "strategic misjudgement".
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea despite competing declarations by several Southeast Asian neighbours and has built artificial islands in the area suitable for military use.
Washington has responded by sending warships close to Chinese-claimed reefs, angering Beijing.
The meeting is set to cover issues beyond the South China Sea, including climate change, cyber-security, terrorism, trade and economic cooperation.