US claims progress with China over cybersecurity concerns

China told the US it was ready to cooperate on cybersecurity issues. But can the two sides really play nice after years of tension and accusations?

Will the US and China ever get along in cyberspace? CNET

The United States and China have pledged to find a way to better get along with each other in cyberspace.

Following two days of talks that ended Wednesday, the US touted progress in convincing the Chinese government to work together to devise a code of conduct for cyberspace, according to the Associated Press. No specific details were revealed, but President Obama said he "urged China to take concrete steps to lower tensions" in cyberspace, while Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi said his country is ready to cooperate with the US on cybersecurity.

China's statement strikes a promising note. But given the long history of tension between the two countries, peaceful coexistence in cyberspace will be hard to achieve. The US has frequently pointed to China or Chinese hackers as the source behind many cyberattacks, most recently one that compromised the data of millions of US government employees. In response, China has denied any involvement in such incidents and has in turn accused the US government of its own attempts to target Chinese officials and companies through cyberattacks.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US made it "crystal clear" that any cyberattack on the part of China was unacceptable, whether or not sanctioned by the government.

"There was an honest discussion, without accusations, without any finger-pointing, about the problem of cyber theft and whether or not it was sanctioned by government or whether it was hackers and individuals that the government has the ability to prosecute," Kerry said.

Kerry added that work needs to be done on how all countries are going to act in cyberspace, but particularly in terms of the "bilateral relationship" between the US and China. The Secretary of State said that cyber intrusions have raised security concerns and hurt US businesses and that the two countries should work together to determine the appropriate level of behavior in cyberspace.

"We need to work together in order to define [acceptable international norms of behavior], and then live by them," Kerry told reporters. "I think that message was clearly delivered and received and hopefully that work will begin in earnest very, very quickly."

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