(Reuters) - The United States and China have been engaged in urgent negotiations in recent weeks on a cybersecurity deal and may announce an agreement when President Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Washington on a state visit on Thursday, the New York Times said on Saturday.
Citing unidentified officials involved in the discussions, the newspaper said the agreement could address cyber attacks on power stations, cellphone networks and hospitals.
The Times said the initial agreement, however, was likely to fall short of offering any protection against most of the attacks - including espionage and the widespread poaching of intellectual property - that China has been accused of conducting in the United States.
The White House declined to comment.
President Barack Obama called last Wednesday for an international framework to prevent the Internet from being “weaponized” as a tool of national aggression, while holding out the prospect of a forceful U.S. response to China over hacking attacks.
He also said cybersecurity would be a major focus in his talks with Xi, a topic that has become a point of friction in U.S.-Chinese relations.
According to the Times, one pivotal goal of U.S. negotiators is to have Chinese leaders embrace a code of conduct adopted recently by a working group at the United Nations.
One of the principles of the U.N. document is that no state should allow cyber activity that cripples another’s critical infrastructure during peacetime.
Reporting By Tom Brown; Editing by Mary Milliken