U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (R) and European External Action Service Secretary Stefano Sannino held their second high-level meeting concerning China on Thursday in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman/Twitter
Dec. 2 (UPI) -- The United States and the European Union held their second high-level meeting concerning China on Thursday as the two sides attempt to foster a united policy to confront and work with the Asian nation amid growing tensions.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and European External Action Service Secretary Stefano Sannino held the dialogue on China in Washington, D.C., producing a joint statement in which they expressed the importance of "maintaining continuous and close contacts" with one another as they manage their systemic rivalries with China as well as cooperate with it.
The pair also discussed "the growing list of China's actions that are of concern, including those that breach international law and run counter to the shared values and interests of the United States and EU."
During the meeting the two sides reviewed the work of six working groups that were launched following the first high-level meeting in May, covering the topics of reciprocity, resilience, human rights, security, multilateralism and areas for constructive engagement with China, such as climate change.
The United States has been taking a strong stance against China starting under the previous Trump administration that has continued into the Biden White House, and the meeting on Thursday signals the European Union may be coming around to President Joe Biden's attempts to form a partnership to confront Beijing.
A senior State Department official told reporters a day ahead of the meeting that Biden has said "Europe is a natural partner for the United States because we're committed to the same global order based on democratic norms and institutions."
That official had said the two sides would produce a "robust" statement following the meeting that "reflects the increasingly convergent U.S. and EU outlooks on the [People's Republic of China] and its increasingly concerning behavior."
In the statement Thursday, the two sides also expressed concern over China's ongoing human rights abuses and violations, particularly the systemic repression of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang and in Tibet as well as the erosion of autonomy and democracy in Hong Kong.
Beijing frequently rejects those accusations as meddling in its internal affairs.
The Western allies also voiced "strong concern over China's problematic and unilateral actions in the South and East China Seas and the Taiwan Strait."
China has claimed much of the South China Sea despite those claims being rejected by an international tribunal and a 2016 ruling by the United Nations.
On Wednesday, the European Union unveiled a $434 billion investment plan that some see as its response to China's Belt and Road initiative.
The next high-level meeting between Sherman and Sannino will take place in the middle of next year, the joint statement said.