April 24 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. has taken a hard line and insisted cybersecurity be central to any economic dialogue with China, given the scale of attacks waged against U.S. companies, White House National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon said.
“The only way to deal with this was to bring it to the center of the relationship and to present the proposition that any economic discussion with the United States -- given the threat to the United States, the degree of theft that is going on -- was going to involve cyber,” Donilon said today at Columbia University in New York.
Ties between the U.S. and China have been strained by a report from a U.S. security company, Mandiant Corp., saying China’s army may be behind cyberattacks on companies worldwide. Chinese officials have rejected the findings.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met this week with Fang Fenghui, chairman of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff, who compared the effects of an Internet attack to those of a nuclear bomb. Still, no specifics measures on a code of conduct for cybersecurity were discussed.
Donilon said the U.S. asked the Chinese to recognize the scope of the problem, to begin an investigation of computer crimes and to engage in a discussion on a set of rules.
“We are moving on all of them, they have agreed to open up a dialogue,” he said. “This is not general cybercrime or hacking, this is a direct theft of United States private and government assets for use for advantage. That is the discussion we are having with the Chinese.”
In a speech last month, Donilon said that the widespread theft of intellectual property and trade secrets through “cyberintrusions emanating from China at a very large scale” has become a point of contention with the Chinese government.
Donilon has said the U.S. would do everything necessary to shield the nation’s computer networks from attacks on vital infrastructure, such as power grids and transportation links.
Mandiant, based in Alexandria, Virginia, said in a February report that the Chinese army may be behind a hacking group that has hit at least 141 companies worldwide since 2006.
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