Obama says the US and China need 'cyber rules'
But leaks show USA has prepared to launch attacks without warning
President Barack Obama called for "common rules of the road" on international cyber security during an informal summit with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, overshadowed by leaks showing advanced US preparations to launch cyberwar.
At a two-day meeting in California, the men agreed to work together to resolve the issue that has become an increasing cause of tension between Washington and Beijing. There have been accusations, denied by China, of concerted cyber attacks on key American weapons systems, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and thefts of corporate secrets.
But as the two men met, The Washington Post newspaper disclosed that Mr Obama had signed a directive in October authorising national security and intelligence officials to prepare to launch cyber attacks with "little or no" warning against foreign adversaries.
"The US government shall identify potential targets of national importance where cyber attacks can offer favourable balance of effectiveness and risk as compared with other instruments of national power," the directive states.
In their first meeting since Mr Xi assumed power in March, Mr Obama welcomed the "peaceful rise" of China and suggested the two nations would "forge a new model of co-operation".
But he said it was critical to reach a permanent understanding on cyber security to accommodate fears over intellectual property theft, fraud and sabotage of national infrastructure through hacking.
While acknowledging that attacks often came from "non-state actors", Mr Obama called for "an international economic order where nations play by the same rules, where trade is free and fair, and where the US and China work together to address issues like cyber security and protection of intellectual property."
Mr Xi said he was willing to work with Mr Obama and wanted to clear up US "misgivings". He added: "China is a victim of cyber attacks. I would hope earnest measures can be taken to resolve this matter."
Earlier this week China's top internet security official said he had "mountains of data" pointing to US hacking aimed at China.
Mr Obama's arrival in Palm Springs was delayed after a mass shooting in which five people were killed in Santa Monica, California, where he had been attending a fundraising event. (See story, far right).