US calls for 'serious' action by China to stop cybertheft

WASHINGTON – The White House called Monday for “serious steps” by China to stop cybertheft, which it described as intolerable to the international community.

National Security adviser Tom Donilon’s comments reflect growing concern in Washington over the security risk posed by cyber intrusions and the economic costs for America.

Donilon said U.S. businesses are increasingly speaking out about cyber theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies emanating from China “on a very large scale.” He said Beijing “should take serious steps to investigate and put a stop to these activities” and recognize the risk it poses to international trade and to U.S.-China relations.

“The international community cannot afford to tolerate such activity from any country,” Donilon told the Asia Society in New York.

He called for China to engage in a constructive dialogue with the U.S. to establish “acceptable norms of behaviour in cyberspace.”

Donilon was speaking about the Obama administration’s strategic commitment to greater U.S. engagement in Asia. He said that despite reductions in the defence budget, the U.S. would sustain efforts to “rebalance” to the region as it winds down its military involvement in the Middle East.

He stressed the importance of constructive relations with Beijing, where Communist Party leader Xi Jinping is due to be anointed as China’s new president this week. He said that transition presented opportunities to deepen co-operation.

Donilon said diplomatic relations were good but military dialogue needed improving to prevent the risk of accidental conflict.

The growing concern over cyber intrusions from China threaten to strain U.S. relations with Beijing, which views the U.S. rebalance as an attempt to contain its emergence as a global power.

Last month, U.S.-based cybersecurity firm, Mandiant, issued a report accusing a secret Chinese military unit in Shanghai of years of cyberattacks against more than 140 companies, a majority of them American. Days later, the Obama administration announced new efforts to fight the growing theft of American trade secrets.

The Chinese government denied being involved in cybertheft, and contended that its country has also been a victim of hacking, much of it traced to the United States.