The Obama administration's national security advisor has called on China to acknowledge the "urgency and scope" of cyber-ransacking originating from the country, which is threatening trade between the nations.
Tom Donilon's demand, made in a speech on Monday, followed a weekend of transpacific sabre-rattling over recent accusations that the Chinese military was involved in attacks on US companies. At a press briefing on the weekend, China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi reiterated the official response from China that reports accusing it of hacking foreign businesses were "built on shaky ground", according to Bloomberg.
Yang also stressed that China is opposed turning cyberspace into a "new battlefield", the news agency said.
Addressing The Asia Society in New York, Donilon relayed growing concerns among US businesses about "sophisticated, targeted theft" of information and proprietary technologies "through cyber intrusions emanating from China".
The threat from China is so great it has become a focal point in relations between the countries, he said.
"From the President on down, this has become a key point of concern and discussion with China at all levels of our governments. And it will continue to be. The United States will do all it must to protect our national networks, critical infrastructure, and our valuable public and private sector property."
Three demands concerning IP theft the US wants met by China include the country recognising the scope of the problem and the risks that hacking poses to trade and relations between the countries, and for Beijing to put a stop to these attacks.
"Finally, we need China to engage with us in a constructive direct dialogue to establish acceptable norms of behavior in cyberspace," he said.
On this last point, at least, it appears on the surface that China and the US agree.
"What this cyber space needs is not war but rules and cooperation," Yang said, according to Bloomberg.
Over the weekend, official Chinese news bureau Xinhua reported that China's national Computer Emergency Response Team (CNCERT/CC) traced most attacks on Chinese public and private organisations this year to IP addresses within the US.
China's Defence Ministry has previously rejected Mandiant's report because of the well known uncertainties around using an IP address to attribute an the source of an attack on the internet.
Chinese security vendor Rising also released a report on Monday citing China as the second most frequently attacked target for hackers globally, slightly behind the US, according to Xinhua.