Malta has in the past two days hosted talks between Jake Sullivan, the United States national security advisor to President Joe Biden, and Wang Yi, the People’s Republic of China Foreign Minister, who were also accompanied by their respective delegations.
White House officials described the meeting to AFP as "the latest effort to ease tensions between the superpowers".
"This meeting was part of ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication and responsibly manage the relationship," a White House statement said.
President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have not talked or met since a summit in Bali last year but US officials say they are working to renew contact between the two leaders.
A string of high-level US officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, have met recently with Chinese officials to prepare a possible Xi-Biden meeting.
The White House said Sullivan and Wang "committed to maintain this strategic channel of communication and to pursue additional high-level engagement".
A Chinese government statement on the Malta meeting largely echoed the US version, saying "the two sides conducted candid, substantive and constructive strategic communication."
Wang brought up the issue of Taiwan - a self-governing, democratic island that China claims but which also receives strong US support - as a "red line that cannot be crossed in Sino-US relations."
"The United States noted the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," according to the White House readout.
According to the US media, the diplomats also discussed a potential leaders' meeting and other issues in the relationship.
A meeting was also held between Prime Minister Robert Abela and Sullivan, during which both sides highlighted that the stability of the Mediterranean region is of paramount importance for global peace and security.
Abela underlined the importance of global peace as a fundamental prerequisite for a prosperous world where the quality of life for people and communities enables nations to cooperate and address global challenges.
In a statement, the Office of the Prime Minister said the weekend hosting of these discussions by Malta reaffirmed the country’s longstanding role as a natural and safe place for holding high-level diplomatic discussions.
"When called upon like these past days, Malta will continue to give its part to facilitate more open channels of communications in line with its longstanding position of advocating for a more just, peaceful and prosperous future."