China agreed to work with the United States and other countries to develop an international code of conduct for cyber espionage.
President Barack Obama urged Chinese officials to alleviate the tension in the US-China relationship by taking concrete steps to address the concerns of Americans such as cyber espionage and territorial disputes in South China Sea.
Pres. Obama and other top U.S. officials met with Vice Premier Liu Yandong, Vice Premier Wang Yang, and State Councilor Yang Jiechi–China’s special representatives to the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
China and U.S have obligation to develop rules
During the beginning of the meeting, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew emphasized that Washington is “deeply concerned” about the Chinese government-sponsored cyber theft from companies and commercial sectors. He said Beijing should “abide by certain standards of behavior in cyberspace.”
On the other hand, Vice President Joe Biden emphasized the urgent need for China and the United States to “agree on a rule-based system for rapidly evolving areas ranging from cyberspace to outer space.
“We have an obligation, China, and the United States, to shape these rules. Let me be clear, the United States believes strongly that whenever possible China needs to be at the table as these new rules are written,” said Biden.
Furthermore, Biden said the countries that steal intellectual property using cyber technology and economic weapons to profit are sacrificing long-term gains. He said such nations “diminish the innovative drive and determination of their own people when they do not reward and protect intellectual property.”
In response, China’s State Councilor Jiechi said through an interpreter that they support the principle of developing an “international code of conduct for cyber information sharing.” He added, “We will work with the U.S. and other countries to work in a spirit of openness to properly address the relevant issues.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said they strongly believe that the United States and China should collaborate in developing and implementing a shared understanding of appropriate state behavior in cyberspace.
According to him, he was pleased that China agreed to work together to establish a code of conduct for cyber activities. He also acknowledged that both countries have “not always seen eye to eye,” but they have a “mature and good working relationship” that could overcome challenges.
Accusations against China over cyber attacks
China has been accused of being the source of major cyber attacks around the world including industrial espionage. A team of Canadian researchers recently claimed that China moved from simply blocking foreign websites to actively disrupting internet traffic using a system attack tool called “The Great Cannon.”
Separately, investigators in the United States believed that Chinese hackers were behind the recent breach of millions of personal data of former, current, and prospective federal employees was China.
FBI Director James Comey estimated that 18 million personal data at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) were hacked. U.S. investigators believed that the Chinese government was the behind the cyber attack.
The estimated number of people affected by the cyber intrusion is expected to increase because the hackers obtained access to a database containing government forms used for security clearances knows as SF86 questionnaires. The forms contain the private information of family members and associates for every government official.
This week, OPM officials will be attending multiple congressional hearings to provide information about the hacking and their response to the problem.
Last week, OPM internal auditors admitted to the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee that key databases containing sensitive national security data including applications for background checks di not meet federal security standards.
In a prepared testimony before the committee, Michel Esser, assistant inspector general for audits at OPM wrote, “Not only was a large volume (11 out of 47 systems) of OPM’s IT systems operating without a valid Authorization, but several of these systems are among the most critical and sensitive applications owned by the agency.”
China rejects criticisms over territorial dispute
China rejected criticisms regarding its behavior in the South China Sea. The Chinese government intensified the tension with some of its neighboring countries including Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines due to its controversial reclamation projects in the disputed islands.
China’s Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zheng Zeguang said his government’s behavior was “beyond reproach” and “there is no crisis in the South China Sea.”
China and the United States agreed to boost the cooperation on conservation, climate change and preventing illegal fishing in the North Pacific despite their differences in maritime security.