The US and China agree not to conduct economic espionage in cyberspace

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

China and US agree not to conduct commercial cyber attacks against each other.

The United States and China have agreed that neither country will conduct economic espionage in cyberspace in a deal that addresses a major source of tension in the bilateral relationship.The U.S. and China are promising that neither nation will conduct or support cyberthefts of intellectual property or trade secrets — a pledge that goes beyond either country’s previous commitments on online conduct.

The agreement, reached in talks between President Obama and President Xi Jinping Thursday and Friday, is a major breakthrough that has the potential to alleviate one of the most significant threats to U.S. economic and national security. The promise is part of a series of cybersecurity agreements the White House outlined just before today’s joint news conference between President Barack Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Xi said he and Obama agreed to step up prosecutions and cooperate on investigations of cybercrime, including creating a hotline between officials in the two countries. Just this summer, hackers linked to China were accused of infiltrating the federal Office of Personnel Management’s system, accessing sensitive information on several million employees and contractors. “Today I can announce that our two countries reached a common understanding on the way forward. Speaking to reporters after the talks, Obama said the two nations had agreed not to conduct or condone cyber attacks on each other’s private sector for commercial gains.

The talks between the two leaders had been expected to focus on China’s alleged cyber intelligence gathering, Beijing’s economic practices and its policy on territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The Chinese and the U.S. will not support theft of intellectual property,” Obama said, calling the agreement “progress” but adding that work on the topic is not yet done. The disclosures of a former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, about extensive U.S. cyber spying overseas has given Beijing ammunition to counter such assertions. It’s unclear how the agreement will substantively affect U.S. companies and government agencies reeling from sophisticated attacks alleged to have been carried out by the Chinese government or its proxies, including the theft of corporate information and millions of health care and federal personnel records. Obama took note of human rights concerns that have been a source of friction between Washington and Beijing. “Nations are more successful and the world makes more progress … when the universal human rights of all people are upheld,” the U.S. president said.

Nonetheless, apparently rattled by the threat of sanctions — a threat that Obama reiterated in his meetings with Xi — China agreed to affirm the norm against cyber economic spying. Xi arrived in Washington Thursday from Seattle, where the Chinese leader sought to reassure U.S. companies he is working to create a more favorable investment climate in his country. The two sides also said they would set up a high-level joint dialogue on cyber-crime in which senior officials from both countries would be able to review allegations of cyber intrusions. Further, both sides agree to cooperate, in a manner consistent with their respective national laws and relevant international obligations, with requests to investigate cybercrimes, collect electronic evidence, and mitigate malicious cyber activity emanating from their territory.

White House aides said their private talks were an opportunity to begin grappling with the main issues up for discussion during Xi’s weeklong state visit. Though a raft of uncomfortable topics lie ahead, U.S. officials on Thursday highlighted an area of cooperation between the world’s two largest countries: climate change. He said that while they did not discuss specific cases of alleged Chinese cybertheft, he mentioned the executive order he signed in April that authorized the imposition of economic sanctions for malicious cyber acts. “I did indicate to President Xi that I would apply those and whatever tools we have in our tool kit to go after cyber criminals, either retrospectively or prospectively,” Obama said. “Those are tools that generally are not directed at governments,” he said. “They are directed at entities or individuals that we can identify…. State Department spokesman John Kirby this week said, “We continue to have serious concerns about China’s practices in the cyber realm and that is probably not going to be abated anytime soon.” Cyber attacks are among the “difficult issues in the U.S. China also pledged to launch a national system to limit greenhouse gases and force industries to purchase pollution credits, a cap-and-trade system that would take effect in 2017.

Lewis, a cyber expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies called it “a really good deal.” The issues now, he said, “ are making sure we can verify it and that there are consequences if they don’t live up to it.” Most pressing is China’s island-building efforts in the Spratly Islands chain, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

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