U.S. and Chinese military officials held their highest-level talks in nearly two years Monday in Beijing, with cybersecurity high on the agenda.
The news came as Verizon’s annual Data Breach Investigations Report found that hackers linked to the Chinese government were far and away the most prolific and aggressive cyberspies in the world last year.
At a news conference after talks with U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chinese Gen. Fang Fenghui pledged to work with the United States on cybersecurity because the results of a major cyberwar “may be as serious as a nuclear bomb,” the New York Times reported.
Gen. Fang said China would be willing to set up a cybersecurity “mechanism” between the two countries, but he warned that progress would be challenging.
“I know how difficult it is,” Gen. Fang said, according to The New York Times. “Anyone can launch the[se] attacks — from the place where he lives, from his own country or from another country.”
It follows close on the heels of Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s visit to China earlier this month. The back-to-back trips show how important China-U.S. relations have become, as the U.S. pivots to Asia and tensions flare on the Korean Peninsula.
The Verizon report found that of 120 incidents of government-sponsored cyberespionage the company looked into, 96 percent came from China. The source of the other 4 percent was unknown, the report’s authors said.
China has denied that it engages in state-sponsored hacking, saying it is the victim of hackers, most based in the United States.