Washington: Ahead of the first summit between US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, the two countries have agreed to hold regular, high- level talks on how to set "standards of behaviour" for cybersecurity and commercial espionage, according to a media report today.
It would be the "first diplomatic effort to defuse the tensions over what the United States says is a daily barrage of computer break-ins and theft of corporate and government secrets," The New York Times reported.
"The US and China have agreed to hold regular, high-level talks on how to set standards of behaviour for cybersecurity and commercial espionage," it said, noting that the talks will begin in July.
Cybersecurity issues loom large between the United States and China because they go to the heart of the economic relationship between the two countries, even more so now that previous sources of friction, like China's foreign exchange policies, have eased in the last year.
The decision to hold talks on came ahead of the June 7-8 informal summit between Obama and Xi, who took office in March, in Rancho Mirage, California, that could set the tone for their relationship and help them confront chronic tensions like the nuclear threat from North Korea.
American officials say they do not expect the process to immediately yield a significant reduction in the daily cyber intrusions from China, the paper said.
The head of the United States Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, Gen. Keith Alexander, has said the attacks have resulted in the "greatest transfer of wealth in history."
Hackers have stolen a variety of secrets, including negotiating strategies and schematics for next-generation fighter jets and gas pipeline control systems.
Nonetheless, a senior American official involved in the negotiations to hold regular meetings said that "we need to get some norms and rules."
"It is a serious issue that cannot simply be swatted away with talking points," said the official, who noted that the meetings would focus primarily on the theft of intellectual property from American companies.
"Our concerns are not limited to that, but that's what needs urgent attention," he added.
China has insisted it is a victim of cyberattacks, not a perpetrator, and Chinese officials have vigorously denied the extensive evidence gathered by the Pentagon and private security experts that a unit of the People's Liberation Army, Unit 61398 outside Shanghai, is behind many of the most sophisticated attacks on the United States.