US, China seek arms
deal for cyberspace during Xi's visit
WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 (PNA/PTI) -- The US and China are negotiating what
could become the first arms control deal for cyberspace, embracing a
commitment by each country that it will not be the first to use cyber
weapons to cripple the other's critical infrastructure during peacetime, a
media report said ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's maiden state visit
While such an agreement could address attacks on power stations, banking
systems, cellphone networks and hospitals, it would not, at least in its
first version, protect against most of the attacks that China has been
accused of conducting in the US, including the widespread poaching of
intellectual property and the theft of millions of government employees'
personal data, The New York Times reported.
The negotiations have been conducted with urgency in recent weeks, with a
goal to announce an agreement when President Xi arrives here on Thursday.
Last week, a high-level Chinese Communist Party envoy, Meng Jianzhu, who is
responsible for state security, visited Washington and met with Obama's
national security adviser Susan Rice, director of FBI James Comey and
President Obama hinted at the ongoing negotiations last Wednesday, when he
said that the rising number of cyberattacks would "probably be one of the
biggest topics" of the summit meeting, and that his goal was to see "if we
and the Chinese are able to coalesce around a process for negotiations" that
would ultimately "bring a lot of other countries along."
But a senior US official involved in the discussions cautioned that an
initial statement between Obama and Xi may not contain "a specific, detailed
mention" of a prohibition on attacking critical infrastructure. Rather, it
would be a more "generic embrace" of a code of conduct adopted recently by a
working group at the United Nations.
One of the key principles of the United Nations document on principles for
cyberspace is that no state should allow activity "that intentionally
damages critical infrastructure or otherwise impairs the use and operation
of critical infrastructure to provide services to the public."
The goal of the American negotiators is to have Chinese leaders embrace the
principles of the UN code of conduct in a bilateral agreement with
Washington, the report said.
But it seems unlikely that any deal coming out of the talks would directly
address the most urgent problems with cyberattacks of Chinese origin, it
Most of those attacks have focused on espionage and theft of intellectual
property. The agreement being negotiated would also not appear to cover the
use of tools to steal intellectual property, the report said.
Still, any agreement to limit cyberattacks in peacetime would be a start.
"It would be the first time that cyber is treated as a military capability
that needs to be governed as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are,"
said Vikram Singh, a former Pentagon and State Department official who is
now vice president for international security at the Center for American