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China, US to hold cybertalks

By Chen Weihua in Washington | China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-04 11:47

With the setup of a bilateral work group, China and the United States are expected to hold talks next month on cybersecurity, which is still largely unregulated in the world.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Monday that China is willing to hold constructive discussions with the US on cybersecurity.

Hong's remarks came after US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's allegations at the 12th Shangri-La Dialogue held over the weekend in Singapore, where Hagel accused the Chinese government and military of being involved in several cyber attacks.

China and the US have agreed to establish a work group under the framework of the China-US Strategic Security Dialogue, Hong said. The annual talk, to be held in July in Washington, is usually joined by hundreds of government officials and experts from both sides to engage in dialogue on a wide range of specific issues regarding bilateral relations.

Hong said China hopes the two sides can calmly manage cybersecurity issues, enhance understanding and consensus and jointly build a peaceful, safe, open and cooperative cyberspace environment.

According to media reports, Hagel also said the US-China work group can help promote dialogue on cybersecurity between the two nations, adding that the US would like to enhance cooperation with China on establishing international norms for cyberspace.

Cyber security is also expected to be on the agenda for the upcoming summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama in Sunnylands, California, late this week.

"China is one of the biggest victims of hacking activities," Hong said.

China's Ministry of Defense earlier said its own website and the People's Liberation Army's website have an average of 144,000 attacks a month from overseas, 62.9 percent of which originate in the US.

"The Chinese government attaches great importance to the issue and opposes hackers or cyberattacks of any kind," Hong said.

In an op-ed piece in China Daily, Shen Dingli, a professor at Shanghai's Fudan University, said building mutual trust is the responsibility of both Beijing and Washington. "This means the US, too, should take serious steps to investigate and put a stop to hacking of Chinese sites by people from within the US, and hold dialogue with China to establish acceptable norms of behavior in cyberspace," wrote Shen, a specialist in international relations and security issues.

"The US has the most advanced and sophisticated cyberarmy, and its accusation that China sponsors hackers for cyberattacks is to draw attention away from what it's doing," Shen said.

In a recent interview with Foreign Affairs magazine, Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai said nobody has so far presented any hard evidence, evidence that could stand up in court, to prove that there is really somebody in China, Chinese nationals, who are doing these things.

"A huge number of Chinese computers, Chinese companies, and Chinese government agencies have also been attacked by hackers," Cui said. "If we trace these attacks, maybe some of them, or even most of them, would come from the United States. 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."

Cui said what is important is for the two governments to sit down, work out a new set of rules, and find ways they can work together to prevent such attacks from happening again.

Kenneth Lieberthal, a senior fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, described the issue as an "area that requires a lot of careful thinking about how best to handle it.

"We can't ask China to stop doing something that we're doing," Lieberthal said on the PBS News Hour. "We can't ask them to obey rules that we don't ask France or others to obey."

The US has unleashed a string of charges and warnings in the past months on alleged cyberattacks from China, including reports from cybersecurity firm Mandiant, the Pentagon and the Defense Science Board.

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