The head of the U.S. trade delegation Jeffrey Gerrish arrives at a hotel after talks with Chinese officials in Beijing, China, Feb. 11, 2019.
The head of the U.S. trade delegation Jeffrey Gerrish arrives at a hotel after talks with Chinese officials in Beijing, China, Feb. 11, 2019.

China struck an upbeat note on Monday as trade talks resumed with the United States, but also expressed anger at a U.S. Navy mission through the disputed South China Sea, casting a shadow over the prospect for improved Beijing-Washington ties.

White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway on Monday also expressed confidence in a possible deal. Asked if the two countries were getting close to a trade agreement, she told Fox News in an interview, "It looks that way, absolutely."

The United States is expected to keep pressing China on longstanding demands that it reform how it treats American companies' intellectual property in order to seal a trade deal that could prevent tariffs from rising on Chinese imports.

The latest talks kick off with working level discussions on Monday before high-level discussions later in the week.

President Donald Trump, left, holds a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, right, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Jan. 31, 2019.
Trump Optimistic About Trade Talks with China 

U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday trade talks with China are making important progress, after discussions earlier this week with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.  

Trump said ending the trade war with China could produce the "biggest deal ever made." 

He also said China agreed to criminalize the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which will "have a huge impact" on the flow of the drug into the United States.

Trump's comments follow negotiations aimed at resolving trade frictions between the economic superpowers.

Negotiations in Washington last month ended without a deal and with the top U.S. negotiator declaring work was needed.

"We, of course, hope, and the people of the world want to see, a good result," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news briefing in Beijing.

The two sides are trying to hammer out a deal before the March 1 deadline when U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent.

Trump said last week he did not plan to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before that deadline, dampening hopes that a trade pact could be reached quickly. But the White House's Conway said a meeting was still possible soon.

Escalating tensions between the United States and China have cost both countries billions of dollars and disrupted global trade and business flows, roiling financial markets.

The same day the latest talks began, two U.S. warships sailed near islands claimed by China in the disputed South China Sea, a U.S. official told Reuters.

FILE - U.S. Navy ships are seen from the bridge of the guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance, in the South China Sea, Oct. 17, 2016, in a photo provided by the U.S. Navy.
China Says US Aims to 'Stir Up Trouble' With Naval Sail-By

China accused the United States of trying to "stir up trouble" on Monday by sending two U.S. guided-missile destroyers near disputed South China Sea islands.

The two warships sailed near the Beijing-claimed Spratly Islands earlier Monday as part of what Washington calls "freedom of navigation operations," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily press briefing.

The U.S. is "determined to stir up trouble in the South China Sea, create tension and undermine peace", Hua said.

She urged the U.S.

Asked if the ships' passage would impact trade talks, Hua said that "a series of U.S. tricks" showed what Washington was thinking. But Hua added that China believed resolving trade frictions through dialog was in the interests of both countries' people, and of global economic growth.

China claims a large part of the South China Sea, and has built artificial islands and air bases there, prompting concern around the region and in Washington.