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Obama, Xi to Discuss Cybersecurity During Informal Talks

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 5, 2013 – President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping will discuss cybersecurity and other topics when they meet this week for informal talks at the Sunnylands estate in California, senior administration officials said yesterday.

During a background conference call with reporters, White House officials said the leaders will have a bilateral meeting at the Rancho Mirage estate the afternoon of June 7, followed by a private dinner. The next day, they will have informal meetings in the morning and another bilateral meeting that ends midday.

“This is an important opportunity for President Obama and President Xi to meet early in President Obama’s second term and shortly after President Xi took office in China,” an official said. “We have a very broad agenda that we will cover with the Chinese that touches upon issues that are directly relevant to the lives and interests of the American people, [including] the ongoing necessity of cybersecurity, which is so important to U.S. businesses and security.”

The officials said the meeting this week is important now because the two sides will meet July 8-12 during the regularly scheduled U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. As part of the dialogue, a high-level U.S.-China working group on cybersecurity, announced April 13 in Beijing by Secretary of State John F. Kerry, will meet for the first time.

“This is an issue that we’ve paid increased attention to over the … last several years, as we saw an increased number of cyber threats from a range of actors, and as we saw the need to strengthen our own defenses,” an official said. “That’s why the president announced an executive order in the State of the Union [address] that allows for better information-sharing and cybersecurity practices, both by the government and the private sector,” the official added. “That’s why we’re working to achieve cybersecurity legislation with Congress that will better enable us to set high standards for cybersecurity.”

The officials said direct and candid discussions about cybersecurity with other countries, especially China, are important.

“We have raised this issue publicly and privately as it relates to cyber intrusions on, for instance, U.S. businesses, and the need to protect both intellectual property and the U.S. economy from cyber threats,” one official said. “And to advance that agenda, the two presidents will address the issue of cybersecurity.” Obama and Xi also will discuss the agenda for the U.S.-China cybersecurity working group when it meets in July, he added.

The officials said they expect cyber to become a standing issue in the U.S.-China relationship, given the importance of cybersecurity to the global economy.

“We believe all nations need to abide by international norms and firm, clear rules for the road as it relates to cybersecurity,” the official said. “I think the message the president will send is that there’s an expectation that all of us are working together to protect the infrastructure of the global economy against cyber intrusion, and that countries need to meet their responsibilities. That will be a focal point not just of these discussions, but importantly, of this working group going forward.”

Cyber intrusions also will be discussed, an official said. “As part of our interest in protecting U.S. businesses, we certainly will raise with the Chinese any concerns we have about intrusions that we believe emanate from China,” the official added, “and we will make clear that … it's not in anybody's interest for there to be a situation in which businesses don't have the confidence that … their intellectual property can't be compromised and sensitive data can't be compromised.”

The use of cyber technology is one of the issues that threatens to damage U.S.-Chinese relations, the international economy and China's reputation, an official said, “particularly as a means of obtaining intellectual property from American companies and institutions.”

The thing to look for during the informal talks this week, an official added, is recognition on China's part of the urgency and the scope of the problem and the risk it entails to U.S. and Chinese interests.

“The U.S. relationship with China is so broad, it encompasses so many issues, that we need to have the ability to work well in some areas even when we’re in competition or have strong differences in other areas,” the official said.


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