China flips cybersecurity tables; reports claim U.S. is prepping attacks

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Chinese President Xi Jinping tried to turn the tables on President Obama over digital security Friday night by claiming that China is a “victim” of cyber attacks, amid reports that the Obama administration is developing secret plans for global cyber warfare.

As the two leaders met for an informal two-day summit in the Californian desert, Mr. Xi decried media reports that “might give people the sense or feeling that cyber security as a threat mainly comes from China.”


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China is a victim of cyber attacks and we hope that earnest measures can be taken to resolve this matter,” he told reporters, with Mr. Obama at his side. Mr. Xi said he wanted to dispel America’s “misgivings” about China’s alleged role in cyber hacking.

There have been numerous reports in recent months of China launching sophisticated cyber attacks against U.S. weapons systems like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as well as accusations of the theft of corporate secrets. China has denied the allegations.

Mr. Obama, confronting a growing scandal about his own administration’s digital surveillance on U.S. citizens, didn’t accuse China publicly of hacking America’s military or corporate secrets. Instead he called for “common rules of the road” over international cyber-hacking, and said China should be America’s partner in such an effort.

“As China continues in its development process and more of its economy is based on research and innovation and entrepreneurship, they’re going to have similar concerns, which is why I believe we can work together on this rather than at cross-purposes,” Mr. Obama said.

Their meeting came amid fresh media reports that the Obama administration has been preparing secret plans to launch cyber attacks with “little or no” warning against foreign adversaries. Both the Guardian newspaper in Great Britain and the Washington Post reported that Mr. Obama signed an order in October known as Presidential Policy Directive 20, which authorizes the National Security Agency and intelligence officials to prepare for imminent cyber warfare.

“The United States government shall identify potential targets of national importance where [cyber attacks] can offer favorable balance of effectiveness and risk as compared with other instruments of national power,” the directive states, according to the newspapers.

Mr. Xi was greeted at the approach to the exclusive Sunnylands estate in southern California by hundreds of protesters, including demonstrators calling for the liberation of Tibet, members of the Falun Gong, and Vietnamese protesting about disputed islands in the South China Sea. Temperatures in the region climbed to more than 110 degrees.

The meetings will conclude on Saturday.

With the reports of domestic surveillance by the Obama administration threatening to overshadow the talks, Mr. Obama told reporters that the issue of cyber hacking are “different” from spying that’s aimed at preventing terrorist attacks.

“How we deal with both identifying potential terrorists or criminals, how the private sector deals with potential theft, and how the federal government, state governments, local governments and the private sector coordinate to keep out some of these malicious forces while still preserving the openness and the incredible power of the Internet and the web and these new telecommunications systems — that’s a complicated and important piece of business,” Mr. Obama said. “But it’s different from these issues of theft and hacking.”

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