WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will tell Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that he must deal with cyber spying and hacking of US targets that originate inside his country when they meet for talks this week.
Recent official and commercial reports and studies alleging flagrant and sometimes state-sponsored theft of US military and commercial secrets have put cyber security at the top of the agenda of the talks on Friday and Saturday.
“We believe that all nations need to abide by international norms and affirm clear rules of the road as it relates to cybersecurity,” a US official told reporters Tuesday, previewing the summit at the Annenberg resort in California.
“That frankly, means dealing with actions emanating from within your territory, so that if there are cyber threats emerging from within another country that pose a risk to US businesses, we’re going to raise that.”
“And so we’re going to do that with China, just as we would insist that every country meet their responsibilities.”
While both sides hope to use the summit, the first formal meeting as equals between Obama and Xi, to ease mistrust and recent tensions, it is clear that the conversation on cyber espionage and hacking will be robust.
China’s ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, indicated that Xi would also be on the offense on the issue during the talks.
“A huge number of Chinese computers, Chinese companies, and Chinese government agencies have also been attacked by hackers,” Cui told Foreign Affairs magazine in an interview.
“If we trace these attacks, maybe some of them, or even most of them, would come from the United States,” he said.
“But we are not in the position to come to the conclusion that these attacks are sponsored or supported by the US government. This is not a very responsible way of making such claims.”
Hoping to defuse pressure for a breakthrough on cyber espionage, the latest issue to rattle relations between the United States and rising superpower China, the sides have scheduled working group talks on the issue in July.
On Saturday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel openly accused China of waging a cyber spying campaign against the United States during a security forum in Singapore.
“The United States has expressed our concerns about the growing threat of cyber intrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military,” he told an annual conference known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.
Hagel’s remarks came just days after China’s defense ministry dismissed a Pentagon report accusing Chinese hackers of accessing US weapons designs.
The report was the most explicit statement yet from Washington that it believes China’s cyber spying is focused on the US government and corporations.
Security researchers employed by the US firm Mandiant meanwhile recently told a congressional hearing that China is pouring huge amounts of cash into cyber attacks targeting business secrets.
The firm earlier this year linked China’s People’s Liberation Army to a long-running cyber espionage campaign. China has consistently denied charges of cyber spying and claims that it is the victim of such attacks.