WASHINGTON/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Top U.S. and Chinese officials will convene this week in Washington for the first round of cyber security talks following the signing of a bilateral anti-hacking accord in September.
China’s Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun is in Washington through Sunday and will meet U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, Chinese state media reported. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is also expected to take part in the discussions.
The talks on Tuesday and Wednesday are seen as potentially significant in establishing acceptable norms for cyber espionage. It also marks an ongoing effort to repair bilateral relations after China withdrew from a working group last year in response to the U.S. indictment of five members of its military on charges it hacked six U.S. companies.
Cyber security has long been an irritant in relations between China and the United States, despite robust economic ties worth $590 billion in two-way trade last year.
The September agreement, brokered during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s official state visit to Washington, included a pledge that neither country would knowingly carry out hacking for commercial advantages.
The pact also underscored a long-standing but unspoken agreement among many countries that hacking in pursuit of traditional espionage purposes is fair game, but infiltrating private sector computer systems for economic gain should be prohibited.
Earlier this month, the Group of 20 nations agreed to a similar set of hacking rules barring espionage on the private sector.
Reviews gauging China’s commitment to limiting its hacking have so far been mixed.
While some observers have noticed a recent slowdown in activity, U.S. counterintelligence chief Bill Evanina said earlier this month he had seen “no indication” that China’s hacking behavior had changed.
CrowdStrike, a U.S. cyber security firm, released a report shortly after Xi’s state visit in which several U.S. companies claimed detection of attempted hacks connected to the Chinese government.
The Washington Post, however, reported Monday that officials have witnessed a decline in hacks on U.S. companies since the indictments last year.
China, Russia and Iran are among the U.S.’s most prolific and sophisticated hacking adversaries. U.S. officials have privately blamed Beijing for a massive hack on federal employee records earlier this year, which exposed sensitive personal information of more than 22 million current and former government workers.
Reporting by Dustin Holz in Washington and Meg Shen in Hong Kong; Editing by Mike Collett-White, Jonathan Weber and Richard Chang