US, China to form cybersecurity working group

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry say both countries agree swift action is needed to boost cybersecurity efforts and bilateral cooperation, while his counterpart Wang Yi say this will increase mutual trust.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

As mutual tensions continue to simmer over hacking, cyberespionage and national security issues, China and the United States will set up a working group on cybersecurity to increase mutual trust and cooperation.

Reuters reported Saturday that in his visit to Beijing over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said both countries agreed on the need for swift action on cybersecurity--an area Washington said is its top national security concern.

China and the U.S. will form a cybersecurity working group to facilitate swifter action and mutual cooperation.

Cybersecurity "affects the financial sector, banks, financial transactions. Every aspect of nations in modern times are affected by the use of cyber networking and obviously all of us--every nation--has an interest in protecting its people, protecting its rights, protecting its infrastructure", Kerry said.

A Xinhua report Saturday said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Kerry during their meeting that China and the U.S. should make joint efforts to safeguard cyberspace, an area the two sides can increase mutual trust and cooperation in.

The formation of a cybersecurity working group appears to be an effort from both parties to end escalating tension between the two countries, which in recent months had been trading accusations over who was responsible for a spate of online attacks. 

The U.S. had said hacking attacks originating out of China have targeted U.S. government and corporate computer networks, among others, stealing government and commercial data, Reuters said.

Between January and February this year, U.S. newspapers the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post said their sites and data were breached by Chinese hackers. Later in February, a U.S.-based IT security company Mandiant released a 60-page report that said Chinese military played a part in an "overwhelming" percentage of cyberattacks on the U.S.

China dismissed the claims, saying it was also a victim of cyberattacks and the U.S. was the top culprit.

The Chinese government maintained that it opposes any form of hacking, which Wang repeated to Kerry, according to Reuters.

A separate AFP report Saturday noted U.S. President Barack Obama last month said online threats affecting US firms and infrastructure were increasing and some were "state sponsored". That prompted China to repeat an offer to hold international talks on hacking, with its foreign ministry saying it wanted "constructive dialogue and cooperation with the international community, including the U.S."

China's new premier Li Keqiang also used his first press conference in March to reject the U.S. accusations, saying Beijing did not support cyber spying and China was a major victim of cyber attacks.

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