Obama Seeks China Cooperation on Hacking That Xi DeniesLisa Lerer and David J. Lynch
U.S. President Barack Obama told Chinese President Xi Jinping continued “large-scale theft” of U.S. property from Chinese cyberattacks is inconsistent with the cooperative tone set during two days of talks.
White House national security adviser Tom Donilon said the two leaders held extensive conversations about cybersecurity yesterday as they wrapped up eight hours of informal discussions at a California desert estate.
Obama detailed for his Chinese counterpart the damage the U.S. has suffered from widespread and continuing intrusions, saying that cybertheft would be “an inhibitor to the relationship reaching its full potential,” Donilon said.
Officials unveiled the first results of the cooperative spirit yesterday, announcing an agreement to work together to reduce hydrofluorocarbons, a greenhouse gas. White House officials cast the move as a significant step to address climate change, ahead of talks in Bangkok later this month. Donilon also said the two sides found “quite a bit of alignment” on stopping North Korea’s nuclear program.
The U.S. president, dressed in casual clothes, said the talks were “terrific” as he passed reporters yesterday during a stroll with interpreters over lawns of the Sunnyland estate in Rancho Mirage, California.
The visit, billed as an informal “shirt-sleeve” summit by the White House, was the second meeting for the two leaders. Over a candle-lit dinner cooked by American celebrity chef Bobby Flay, a morning stroll and afternoon tea with Xi’s wife, the two leaders held wide-ranging conversations about economic, security and military issues.
Since taking office, Obama has sought to redirect U.S. attention toward Asia after a lull in interest in the region during the Bush administration. In Xi, who took office in March, White House officials see a leader with a more informal style who is more open to engagement with the U.S.
Top U.S. officials, including Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Secretary of State John Kerry and Donilon, have traveled to China for talks over the past three months, part of an effort to engage Xi early in his term.
For this meeting, White House officials worked to set a casual tone in an effort to foster a sense of personal diplomacy between the two men even as long-running international disputes undermine the relationship between the two nations.
U.S. officials have accused the Chinese government of being behind a series of hacker attacks designed to steal trade secrets and potentially disable computers that operate banks, power grids and telecommunications systems.
Obama made clear to the Chinese that “the U.S. did not have any doubt about what’s going on here,” Donilon said. “Resolving this issue is key to U.S.-China relations.”
A Pentagon report in May for the first time accused China’s military of penetrating U.S. computer networks to steal sensitive data. Mandiant Corp., an Alexandria, Virginia-based computer security firm, released a report in February saying the People’s Liberation Army in China may be behind the hacking of at least 141 companies worldwide since 2006.
Xi rejected charges that China is responsible for anti-U.S. cyber-assaults, saying that his nation was also a victim and calling for cooperation on the matter.
“The Chinese government is firm in upholding cyber security and we have major concerns about cyber security,” he said.
The leaders wrapped up the talks yesterday afternoon, with no formal statements to the press. Xi departed California, while Obama planned to spend the evening relaxing at Sunnylands.
Their next formal discussions will probably take place in September when both leaders travel to St. Petersburg for a G20 summit. Xi invited Obama to visit China for a similar informal meeting and aides are working on scheduling official state visits in both countries.