Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel publicly accused the Chinese government and military at the weekend of carrying out cyber attacks and expressed Washington’s determination to work “vigorously” to keep cyberspace safe.
The accusation was made in an address on Saturday to the Shangri-La security conference in Singapore, which was attended by government and military representatives from Beijing.
Speaking a week before President Barack Obama meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in California, Hagel said it was essential for the two powers to address their differences through “continuous and respectful dialogue.”
“Even as we seek to uphold principles in well-established areas, we must also recognize the need for common rules of the road in new domains,” said Hagel, who is attending a Nato defense ministers meeting on cyber issues this week (June 4-5).
“The U.S. and all nations in the region have many areas of common interest and concern in cyberspace, where the threats to our economic security, businesses and industrial base are increasing,” the defense secretary said, adding that Washington was “clear-eyed” about the challenges.
“The U.S. has expressed our concerns about the growing threat of cyber intrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military,” Hagel said.
“As the world’s two largest economies, the U.S. and China have many areas of common interest and concern, and the establishment of a cyber working-group is a positive step in fostering U.S.-China dialogue on cyber. We are determined to work more vigorously with China and other partners to establish international norms of responsible behavior in cyberspace.”
Hagel’s remarks follow a Pentagon report issued in May which said that last year “numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military”.
The Pentagon said the attacks were focused on exfiltrating information. “China is using its computer network exploitation capability to support intelligence collection against the U.S.
diplomatic, economic, and defense industrial base sectors that support U.S. national defense programs,” the report said.
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