China says it's looking forward to weekend cybersecurity talks with US Defence Secretary Hagel

BEIJING, China – China is looking forward to “even-tempered talks” on cybersecurity when a Chinese military delegation meets with U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel over the weekend, the Foreign Ministry said Friday, as Washington continues to press Beijing over the issue ahead of a summit next week.

Ministry spokesman Hong Lei repeated Beijing’s hopes for longer-term co-operation over hacking threats that have increasingly dominated discussions over what many see as a bilateral relationship adrift. Cyberspying is expected to feature high on the agenda at the June 7-8 meeting at a California retreat between President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

China has consistently denied involvement in hacking and says it is itself a major victim of cyber intrusions.

“We believe that the two sides should have even-tempered talks on this issue and create bright spots in the co-operation in order to jointly deal with cyber threats and build an open, co-operative, secure and transparent cyberspace,” Hong told reporters at a regularly scheduled news briefing.

The meeting this weekend at a regional security forum in Singapore follows a report by the Defence Science Board that said nearly 40 Pentagon weapons programs and almost 30 other defence technologies were compromised by cyber intrusions. The report said some of the intrusions appeared to be “attributable directly to the Chinese government and military.”

Speaking to reporters on his plane en route to Singapore on Thursday, Hagel said that the U.S. must find ways to work with the Chinese and other countries to develop rules of the road and a better understanding among nations for the use of cyberspace.

“These are issues that we’re going to deal with, frame up, put right at the top of the agenda,” said Hagel, who is expected to have the brief meeting with the Chinese on the sidelines of a session at the Shangri-La Dialogue. “There’s only one way to deal with these issues — that’s straight up.”

Officials have been warning for years about China’s alleged cyber espionage efforts aimed at U.S. military and high-tech programs. But as the U.S. looks to expand its military presence in the Asia-Pacific, worries increase that China can use the information to blunt America’s military superiority and save years of development time and billions of dollars producing cutting-edge weaponry.

On Thursday, China’s Defence Ministry dismissed the Defence Science Board report, saying China was perfectly able to develop defensive weapons on its own without outside help.