China's national defense minister said Sunday it would be an "unbearable disaster for the world" if the United States and China were to clash.
Li Shangfu, dressed in a military uniform, spoke Sunday at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia's top security summit, in Singapore.
He said China and the United States have "different systems and are different in many other ways," but added that the differences should not prevent them from finding "common ground and common interests to grow bilateral ties and deepen cooperation."
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke at the summit Saturday and encouraged China to keep the lines of communication open between the two countries.
Li has refused Austin's requests to meet at the summit. However, the two did shake hands on the summit's sidelines Friday. The Pentagon said the two defense officials did not have a 'substantive exchange."
Austin said ongoing communication between the countries is essential to avoid miscalculations that could lead to conflict.
"We do not seek conflict or confrontation," Austin said in his address at the summit. "But we will not flinch in the face of bullying or coercion," he added.
There are several issues the United States and China do not agree on, including territorial disputes regarding the South China Sea and an alleged spy balloon that was shot down by a U.S. fighter plane after the balloon floated across the United States.
Perhaps the most vexing is the issue of Taiwan, which China claims as its own and that it wants to bring under its rule. China has become increasingly aggressive with its moves against Taiwan, setting up a situation that could resemble Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
On Saturday, the United States and Canada mounted a rare joint sailing through the Taiwan Strait.
The U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet said in a statement that guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon and Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Montreal conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit "through waters where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law."
The bilateral transit, the statement said, "demonstrates the commitment of the United States and our allies and partners to a free and open Indo-Pacific."
China said it monitored the ships' transit.