U.S. has met with China on Internet freedom: official

WASHINGTON Tue Jan 19, 2010 2:59pm EST

A Chinese national flag flies in front of Google China's headquarters in Beijing, January 15, 2010. REUTERS/Alfred Jin

A Chinese national flag flies in front of Google China's headquarters in Beijing, January 15, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Alfred Jin

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has had multiple meetings with Chinese authorities over Internet freedom and will have more in the coming days, a top State Department official said on Tuesday amid continuing tensions between Google and Beijing.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told reporters that Washington viewed free and open Internet use as a "universal right that should be available to all people."

"The ability to operate with confidence in cyberspace is critical in a modern society and economy," he said.

"The U.S. government has had multiple meetings with Chinese authorities on this matter and will have more in the coming days," Campbell added.

Google said last week that it and other companies were targets of sophisticated cyber-spying from China, and threatened to pull out of the country.

"We take this matter very seriously," Campbell said. "The whole issue does raise serious concerns."

He said China had denied the allegations made by Google. Campbell said Washington believed Chinese authorities were in the best position to explain the situation, "and we are asking them for an explanation."

(Reporting by Andrew Quinn and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Eric Beech)

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