China, US Cooperate Against Cyber Attacks

Despite tensions between China and the United States over the South China Sea stand-off and blind activist, Chen Guangcheng, US and Chinese defense chiefs have pledged to work together against cyber threats. This announcement comes after the US has said that they would put $30 million behind the war on censorship. AFP reports:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and China’s Defense Minister Liang Guanglie on Monday struck a positive note at a joint press conference at the Pentagon, announcing a joint counter-piracy naval exercise in the Gulf of Aden later this year and tentative plans to cooperate in the sensitive realm of cyber security.

Liang’s trip marked the first visit by a Chinese defense minister to Washington in nine years and US defense officals were anxious to avoid any mention of blind rights campaigner Chen Guangcheng.

Chen “didn’t come up” in the talks and officials had said beforehand that his fate was a subject for US diplomats at the State Department, not the Pentagon.

The dissident dramatically escaped house arrest and took refuge at the US embassy in Beijing on April 26, creating a dilemma for both governments just days before the arrival of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Although the two countries have agreed to work together, some officials are worried because the most often cited source of cyber attacks is from China. According the the Voice of America, Liang has denied these claims:

Liang, a general in the People’s Liberation Army, said that there is no evidence directly linking cyber attacks in the United States to China. He said that in his talks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the secretary agreed that all of the attacks could not be attributed to China.

Liang said that during their talks Monday, he and Panetta discussed ways to strengthen cyber security, but added that they would leave the details of that effort for experts to work out.

President Barack Obama has cited cyber security as one of the most serious economic and national security challenges facing the United States. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says Sino-American cooperation is crucial.

“Because the United States and China have developed technological capabilities in this arena, 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,” said Panetta.

Liang’s visit has been the first visit by a Chinese defense minister since 2003.