Monday 16 December 2019

Hacking discussed at US-China talks

US secretary of state John Kerry speaks at a news briefing after the US-China strategic and economic dialogue in Beijing (AP)
US secretary of state John Kerry speaks at a news briefing after the US-China strategic and economic dialogue in Beijing (AP)

US secretary of state John Kerry has said the United States and China had a frank exchange on the issue of cyberhacking during this week's strategic and economic dialogue in Beijing.

Mr Kerry said the loss of intellectual property through hacking has had a "chilling effect on innovation and investment" and said such activity is hurting US companies.

He made no mention of a New York Times report suggesting significant Chinese hacking of information about US government personnel.

Chinese foreign policy chief Yang Jiechi described cyber-security as a "common threat facing all countries".

Speaking through an interpreter, he said the issue required mutual trust. "Cyberspace should not become a tool for damaging the interests of other countries," he said.

The two countries have been at odds over US indictments of five senior Chinese military officials. Washington accused the officials of stealing trade secrets from US companies and giving them to Chinese competitors.

China has rejected US efforts to restart a working group on cyber-security, which Beijing suspended after the indictments were unsealed.

Mr Yang said it was up to the United States to first create the proper conditions for renewed dialogue on the matter.

Mr Kerry and Mr Yang spoke at the conclusion of the two-day talks, aimed at fostering closer cooperation between the world's top and second economies.

Mr Kerry said close cooperation between the two was essential to deal with world problems such as Iran's nuclear programme, North Korea, and conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria.

He said the two sides discussed ways to advance a peaceful and denuclearised Korean peninsula. "We both understand that there's more we can do in order to bring North Korea into compliance with its obligations to denuclearise," he said.

Also present was US treasury secretary Jacob Lew who said China had committed to reducing intervention in its currency "as conditions permit".

"China is making preparations to adopt greater transparency, including on foreign exchange, which will accelerate the move to a more market-based exchange rate. These commitments will assist China in its reforms and will help level the playing field," he said.

The only specifics announced were related to climate change. Eight joint projects aimed at capturing and storing carbon and setting up more efficient energy grids were announced yesterday.

They also agreed to set stronger fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks and to study gas use in industrial boilers.

Mr Kerry said both countries were committed to low-carbon economic growth and significantly reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

The New York Times claims Chinese hackers broke into the computer networks of the US Office of Personnel Management earlier this year.

It says the intention was to access the files of tens of thousands of federal employees who had applied for top-secret security clearances.

Mr Kerry was asked about the Times report and said: "At this point in time, it does not appear to have compromised any sensitive material. I'm not going to get into any specifics of the ongoing investigation."

A Chinese government spokesman reiterated Beijing's position that it is "resolutely opposed" to hacking and said there were parties who wanted to make China look like a cyber-security threat.

"Some of the American media and cyber-security firms are making constant efforts to smear China and create the so-called China cyber threat," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

"They have never been able to present sufficient evidence. We are deeply convinced that such reports and commentaries are irresponsible and are not worth refuting."

PA Media

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