Cyber espionage 'at the center' of diplomacy with China

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President Obama underscored to Chinese President Xi Jinping that cyber theft of American intellectual property is "inconsistent with the kind of relationship that we want to build with China," National Security Advisor Tom Donilon told press after the two presidents met in for an informal summit in California earlier this month.

Cyber espionage "is now really at the center of the relationship. It is not an adjunct issue," Donilon said June 8 on the second of a 2 day meeting between the two leaders.

If China does not address the issue of direct theft of U.S. intellectual property, that will be "an inhibitor to the relationship really reaching its full potential." Donilon said as well.

The issue of Chinese hacking, which promised to be a high profile issue in the days leading to the summit, was publically overshadowed by revelations of federal collection of domestic telephone network metadata and surveillance of electron communications with foreigners sent through most major Internet providers.

Among the leaked documents – apparently sent to the press by self-professed leaker Edward Snowden, whose last known location was a hotel in Hong Kong – is Presidential Policy Directive 20, a classified document Obama signed in October governing cyber operations. British newspaper The Guardian published a copy on June 7.

Among other things, the directive calls for the federal government to identify foreign "potential targets of national importance" suitable for attack through an "offensive cyber effects operation," suitability defined as "a favorable balance of effectiveness and risk as compared with other instruments of national power."

Offensive cyber operations, the directive says, can be launched with "little or no warning."

During his June 8 press briefing, Donilon sought to focus attention onto cyber espionage, telling reporters that "I want to be clear on exactly what we're talking about here. What we're talking about here are efforts by entities in China to, through cyber attacks, engage in the theft of public and private property."

USA Today reports that at a Chinese-hosted news conference following the summit China State Councilor Yang Jiechi sought to downplay U.S-Chinese friction on cybersecurity, stating that both countries "are faced with similar challenges."

He added that cybersecurity "should not become the root cause of mutual suspicion and friction between our two countries. Rather, it should be a new bright spot in our cooperation."

For more:
- read a transcript of Donilon's June 8 presser
- go to The Guardian's copy of PPD-20

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