The dialogues, which will be held on May 13 and 14 for the first time in two years, are expected to touch on a broad range of issues including religious freedom, the rule of law and Internet censorship, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told a press briefing.
The US delegation of Human Rights will be led by by Mike Posner, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, while the Chinese side will be led by Chen Xu, the Foreign Ministry's director general for international organizations.
The dialogue had been scheduled for February, but was delayed after U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to meet with Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama in February and US arms sale to Taiwan angered the communist regime of China, leading to a period of high tension between the two countries.
Philip Crowley downplayed the significance of the delay, saying that the dialogue "had taken us a little bit longer to schedule." Criticism of China in a U.S. annual report on human rights has long been a sore point for Beijing, which has compiled a retaliatory list of human rights abuses in the United States since 1998.
However, Crowley noted that the United States has raised human rights issues "in all of our high-level meetings" with China. The human rights dialogue itself, however, has been infrequent, with the previous two meetings taking place in December 2002 and May 2008.
According to the joint statement issued by the two countries during President Obama's visit to China last November, China and the United States underlined that each country and its people have the right to choose their own path, and agreed to hold the next round of human rights dialogue in Washington by the end of February 2010.
"Both sides recognized that China and the United States have differences on the issue of human rights," said the statement, " Addressing these differences in the spirit of equality and mutual respect, as well as promoting and protecting human rights consistent with international human rights instruments, the two sides agreed to hold the next round of the official human rights dialogue in Washington D.C. by the end of February 2010."
U.S-Sino relations had been soured over Obama's talks with the Tibetan dissident leader, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and China's strict censorship of the Internet. But their ties appear to have taken an upturn recently with Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao in their meeting in the U.S. capital earlier this month underscoring the importance of reinforcing their partnership to tackle common challenges such as nuclear proliferation.