U.S., China Must Work Together on Cyber, Panetta Says
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 7, 2012 Because the United States and China have developed technological capabilities in the cyber arena, the nations must work together to avoid misperception that could lead to a crisis, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta conducts a joint news conference with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie at the Pentagon, May 7, 2012. DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
During a Pentagon news conference with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie, both defense leaders answered questions about U.S.-China relations in cyber space.
In a meeting today between Panetta and Liang -- the first U.S. visit in nine years by a Chinese defense minister -- the two discussed expanding cooperation in areas such as peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and counterpiracy. They also spoke about maritime areas, nuclear proliferation, missile defense and cyberspace.
“It's extremely important that we work together to develop ways to avoid any miscalculation or misperception that could lead to crisis in this area,” Panetta said.
A fiscal 2011 report to Congress outlined some of the history between the United States and China in the fledgling military area of cyber defense.
The report, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2011,” said that many computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, were the target of intrusions, some of which appeared to have originated in China. The intrusions, it said, focused on exfiltrating information, or stealthily removing information from computer networks.
In China, that nation’s 2010 Defense White Paper noted its own concern about foreign cyber warfare efforts and highlighted the importance of cyber security in China’s national defense.
“In parallel with its military preparations, China has increased diplomatic engagement and advocacy in multilateral and international forums where cyber issues are discussed and debated,” the report says.
Beijing’s agenda often is in line with Russian efforts to promote more international control over cyber activities, the report says, adding that China has not yet agreed with the U.S. position that existing mechanisms, such as International Humanitarian Law and the Law of Armed Conflict, apply in cyberspace.
“China’s thinking in this area is evolving as it becomes more engaged,” the report concludes.
At the news conference, in response to a query about the nature of his and Panetta’s discussions on cyberspace, Liang seemed enthusiastic about answering the question.
“Yes, we did talk about the cyber security issue … during the meeting that I had with Secretary Panetta,” he said.
Liang said he’s answered the same question many times, including during the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2011 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus in 2010.
Also that year, the United States and China discussed the issue during the second round of the China-U.S. Strategic Security Dialog in Beijing, the general said.
“I can hardly agree with the proposition that the cyber attacks directed to the United States are directly coming from China,” Liang said. “And during the meeting, Secretary Panetta also agreed on my point that we cannot attribute all the cyber attacks in the United States to China.”
Cyber attacks are important to all countries around the world, Liang said, and concern politics, the economy, the military and people’s livelihood.
“Therefore,” he said, “I believe it is correct for all the nations to place such great importance … on cyber security.”
Liang said he and Panetta also talked about the possible ways that China and the United States could jointly work to find ways to strengthen cyber security. “Although we did not touch upon the details or technical issues in this regard,” he added. “We will leave that to experts.”
Panetta applauded the general's frankness in discussing cyber issues.
“Both the United States and China have developed advanced technology with regard to the cyber arena,” the secretary said. “And it's true, as the general pointed out, that we agreed that there are other countries, there are hackers, there are others involved in some of the attacks that both of our countries receive.
Panetta added that he appreciates the general's willingness to see if the United States and China can develop an approach to having exchanges to develop better cooperation in the cyber arena.