Xi confronted over cyber theft in N Korea

The Chinese president is confronted by Barack Obama on cyber theft, affinity found on North Korea.

The Chinese president is confronted by Barack Obama on cyber theft, affinity found on North Korea. Picture: AFP.

CALIFORNIA - US President Barack Obama confronted Chinese President Xi Jinping over allegations of cyber theft on Saturday but they agreed at a shirtsleeves summit in the California desert on reining in North Korea.

The two leaders debated how to handle China's growth as a world power more than 40 years after President Richard Nixon's ground-breaking visit to Mao Zedong's Communist China in 1972 ended decades of estrangement between Washington and Beijing.

While Obama publicly emphasized the US desire for a "peaceful rise" by China, privately he laid out some specific examples to Xi of what the United States says is Chinese cyber thievery.

American officials have voiced increasing alarm at cyber spying from China that has hit US businesses and Obama is under pressure to take steps to stop it amid controversy in America about the extent of his own government's counterterrorism surveillance.

The Washington Post reported recently that China had accessed data from nearly 40 Pentagon weapons programs.

Obama's message to Xi carried a warning, "that if it's not addressed, if it continues to be this direct theft of United States property, that this was going to be a very difficult problem in the economic relationship," White House national security adviser Thomas Donilon said.

Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi told reporters Beijing wanted cooperation rather than friction with the United States over cyber security. Xi had told a news conference with Obama on Friday that China itself was a victim of cyber-attacks but that the two sides should work together to develop a common approach.

"Cyber security should not become the root cause of mutual suspicion and friction, rather it should be a new bright spot in our cooperation," Yang said.

But while cyber-attacks were a sore spot, the two leaders found common ground on North Korea, whose belligerent rhetoric, nuclear tests and missile launches have frustrated its only ally, Beijing, and raised tensions in the Asia Pacific.

American officials came away from the Obama-Xi summit believing that China is ready to work more closely with the United States on North Korea than it has in the past, but offered no specific concrete measures to be taken.

Donilon told reporters that Obama and Xi "agreed that North Korea has to denuclearize, that neither country will accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state and that we would work together to deepen cooperation and dialogue to achieve denuclearization."

Yang told a separate news conference that Xi had told Obama that China and the United States were "the same in their positions and objectives" on the North Korean nuclear issue.