- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Senior Obama administration officials this week trumpeted bilateral climate change talks with the Chinese in Beijing — one of the world’s most polluted cities.

However, one little-noticed initiative is creating security concerns that China may gain access to strategic data on U.S. electrical grids that could be used in a future cyberattack against the U.S. infrastructure.

As with previous meetings of the latest U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, both U.S. and Chinese officials offered vague statements on the climate change talks this week.

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Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy for climate change, told reporters that “good meetings” were held along with lots of “active cooperation” with China on the subject.

Said Mr. Stern: “The joint session that was held today on climate change, I think, was, overall, quite positive.” In diplomatic-speak, that is the rough equivalent of “we talked a lot but agreed on little.”

China’s air pollution is epic, with choking smog a persistent problem especially in the capital, Beijing. Communist authorities euphemistically refer to the smog as “bad weather.”

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang said during the talks that China plans a “war” on pollution.

One troubling aspect of the talks, however, was Mr. Stern’s reference to one of eight projects announced Tuesday — cooperation between China and the United States on “smart grid” electrical networks.

No details were provided in the State Department’s “key points” of the talks, and a spokeswoman did not return emails seeking comment.

The smart grid is the application of digital technology to better manage electricity through the network of transmission lines, substations and transformers that deliver electricity, arguably the country’s most important energy source.

China also is developing its own smart grid.

Security analysts say the digitization of the electrical power grid will create new vulnerabilities for cyberattacks — a Chinese military warfare specialty that is a growing concern.

The Justice Department in May indicted five People’s Liberation Army hackers for cyberattacks on U.S. businesses. The indictment prompted China to cancel a cybersecurity working group at the latest round of talks in Beijing.

China’s military recently highlighted its view of the role of cyberattacks in warfare. A PLA report, “Strategic Review 2013,” published in April stated that “the international struggle for cyberspace dominance has become increasingly fiercer.”

“Major powers in the world have put their premium on developing their own military forces in cyberspace and on scrambling for the dominant position in cyberspace,” the report says. “International competition over cyberspace has displayed a new tendency of stressing the ability to deter, to attack and to regulate.”

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