Washington: President Barack Obama laid out a fresh threat of sanctions against China for alleged cybercrimes on Friday, even as he and Chinese President Xi Jinping reached an agreement not to conduct or support such hacking.
"It has to stop," Obama declared.
The president, in a Rose Garden news conference with Xi, was clear that he'll be wary until the Chinese follow through on promised efforts to stop cyberespionage, saying, "The question now is: Are words followed by action?"
As for the possibility of sanctions, against either individuals, businesses or state-run companies, he said: "We will apply those, and whatever other tools we have in our tool kit, to go after cybercriminals either retrospectively or prospectively."
Obama said the agreement was progress but he added that "I have to insist our work is not yet done."
Xi, for his part, agreed that the two countries would not "knowingly support" cybertheft and promised to abide by "norms of behavior" in cyberspace.
"Confrontation and friction are not the right choice for both sides," Xi said, speaking through a translator.
Both countries claim they don't engage in cybertheft of commercial secrets, one of the deep differences that have threatened ties between the world's two largest economies.
The agreement to clamp down on the theft of trade secrets falls short of addressing the Obama administration's greater concerns about theft of national security information, such as the tens of millions of U.S. Federal personnel records that American lawmakers and some U.S. Officials have said was engineered by Beijing. Obama has declined to assign blame to China for that breach nor to sanction its government, amid concerns that retaliating for that breach might have led Xi to cancel the state visit.
Overall, Obama said, the two leaders' visit had yielded "an extremely productive meeting," adding that their candid conversations on areas of disagreement "help us to understand each other better."
On the issue of China's disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea, which have unnerved some U.S. Partners in Asia, Xi defended his nation's claims in the area. He said construction work on artificial islands doesn't "target or impact any country, and China does not intend to pursue militarization." The U.S. Has no territorial claims in the area but says the island development is destabilizing the region and should stop.
Xi said China wanted disputes to be settled peacefully and respects freedom of navigation and overflight in the area that is crucial to global trade.