- Associated Press - Thursday, July 10, 2014

BEIJING (AP) - China and the United States on Thursday promised closer cooperation on climate change and North Korea, although China warned the U.S. not to take sides on its maritime disputes with Asian neighbors.

The two sides discussed cyberhacking but announced no progress toward resolving U.S. accusations of widespread Chinese theft of government and corporate secrets.

At the conclusion of an annual high-level dialogue, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the two sides discussed ways to persuade North Korea to give up nuclear weapons. “We both understand that there’s more we can do in order to bring North Korea into compliance with its obligations to denuclearize,” he said.

The U.S. has long pushed for China to use its status as North Korea’s only major ally, and a crucial source of fuel and food, to pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear capabilities. The U.S. and Western leaders saw President Xi Jinping’s visit to South Korea last week as a positive sign.

Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, said it was important to maintain restraint in dealing with North Korea and said the two sides could do “more things to relax the situation.”

Meeting later with Xi, Kerry said the two sides had come to an agreement “that we must press forward together in unity with respect to Iran’s nuclear program.” They are both part of the six-nation group that is trying to thrash out a nuclear deal with Iran. Kerry also said close cooperation between the two was essential to deal with other world problems such as conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria.

Officials from the two countries met Wednesday and Thursday for an annual strategic and economic dialogue aimed at fostering a more cooperative relationship between the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 economies.

The U.S. had hoped to secure an end to alleged Chinese industrial cyberespionage against American companies and stricter rules governing territorial claims in Asia’s contested, resource-rich seas.

Kerry said that the two sides had a frank exchange about cyberhacking, which he said was hurting U.S. companies and having a “chilling effect on innovation and investment.”

Asked about a New York Times report suggesting significant Chinese hacking of information about U.S. government personnel, Kerry said he did not discuss it with the Chinese. However, he said, “We’ve been clear on larger terms that this is an issue of concern.”

China’s government has rejected accusations that it is encouraging cyberhacking, though it has given no indication it has investigated the U.S. complaints. Yang repeated his government’s previous position that cyberhacking is a “common threat facing all countries.”

Yang said the issue required mutual trust. “Cyberspace should not become a tool for damaging the interests of other countries,” he said.

The two countries have been at odds over U.S. indictments of five Chinese military officials. Washington accused the officials of stealing trade secrets from U.S. companies and giving them to Chinese competitors.

China has rejected U.S. efforts to restart a working group on cybersecurity, which Beijing suspended after the indictments were unsealed.

Yang said it was up to the United States to first create the proper conditions for renewed dialogue on the matter.

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