U.S., China discuss cybersecurity amid revelation of hacked federal workers’ data

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with China’s President Xi Jinping (R) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 10th, 2014.

Ongoing tensions between Beijing and Washington over cyber security may be taking a turn for the worse. U.S. officials are now claiming that a database of personal information was breached by hackers in China. CCTV’s Jim Spellman reports.

Computer networks of the databases of the Office of Personnel Management, the agency that keeps the personal information of all federal employees, were broken into by Chinese hackers according to a report in The New York Times.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. and China had a frank exchange on the issue during this week’s “Strategic and Economic Dialogue” in Beijing. However, Kerry said he and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew only were notified of the latest accusation of wrongdoing after the gathering’s conclusion.

Jim Spellman has our broadcast report.

U.S., China discuss cybersecurity amid revelation of hacked federal workers' data

U.S., China discuss cybersecurity amid revelation of hacked federal workers' data

Ongoing tensions between Beijing and Washington over cyber security may be taking a turn for the worse. U.S. officials are now claiming that a database of personal information was breached by hackers in China. CCTV's Jim Spellman has been following the story and has the latest on this allegation.

“We did not raise it in specific terms. We raised the subject, obviously,” Kerry told reporters. He said the alleged incident referred only to an “attempted intrusion” still being investigated but said no sensitive material appears to have been compromised.

At a news conference, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, “We have consistently stressed that China resolutely opposes internet hacking. On this issue, China does what it says. Some of the American media and cyber-security firms are making constant efforts to smear China and create the so-called China cyber threat. They have never been able to present sufficient evidence.”

The hackers, who aren’t believed to be government actors, sought information on people who were candidates for higher security clearances, according to the Times.

The issue of cybersecurity was already among one of the most sensitive at this year’s dialogue after the U.S. unsealed indictments against five senior Chinese military officials in May. They are accused of stealing trade secrets from the computers of American companies and passing them on to Chinese competitors.

CLICK HERE FOR PREVIOUS CCTV COVERAGE OF U.S.-CHINA CYBERSECURITY STORIES

In May, China’s Ministry of National Defense hit back, saying the U.S. claim was entirely unfounded and absurd.

“We have evidence of some countries conducting cyber attacks on China’s government, national defense organs, companies and important websites. We will further react to the U.S. indictment in accordance with the situation,” said Geng Yansheng, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense.

In retaliation for the action, China suspended a working group on cyber-related matters. China has demanded the withdrawal of the charges, and foreign policy chief Yang Jiechi said Thursday the U.S. must first create the proper conditions for dialogue for the working group to be renewed.

Earlier, Kerry said the loss of intellectual property through hacking has had a “chilling effect on innovation and investment,” and said such activity is hurting U.S. companies.

Yang described cybersecurity as a “common threat facing all countries.” But, speaking through an interpreter, he suggested the issue was being abused: “Cyberspace should not become a tool for damaging the interests of other countries,” he said.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew also addressed the question of cybercrime, but highlighted some progress. He said China committed to vigorously prosecuting trade secret theft cases.

Lew also stressed Chinese pledges to reduce intervention in its currency “as conditions permit.”

“China is making preparations to adopt greater transparency including on foreign exchange, which will accelerate the move to a more market based exchange rate,” he said. Such actions will help level the playing field for American workers and companies, he added.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR COMPLETE COVERAGE OF THE 2014 U.S.-CHINA STRATEGIC AND ECONOMIC DIALOGUE

CCTV-America Exclusive: Interview with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew

John Kerry and Jack Lew talk with CCTV

John Kerry and Jack Lew talk with CCTV

Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew spoke with CCTV’s Wang Guan on the eve of the 2014 Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The talks come at a delicate time in the relationship between the United States and China.

Cyberhacking was a rare issue of disagreement at a conference that otherwise highlighted the increasing levels of cooperation between the two countries over everything from the security threats posed by North Korea and Iran, to fighting climate change and combating wildlife trafficking.

Kerry said the two sides discussed ways to persuade the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea to give up nuclear weapons. “We both understand that there’s more we can do in order to bring North Korea into compliance with its obligations to denuclearize,” he said.

The U.S. has long pushed for China to use its status as the DPRK’s only major ally, and a crucial source of fuel and food, to pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear capabilities. The U.S. and Western leaders saw President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Republic of Korea — ROK, or South Korea — last week as a positive sign.

Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, said it was important to maintain restraint in dealing with the DPRK and said the two sides could do “more things to relax the situation.”

Meeting later with Xi, Kerry said the two sides had come to an agreement “that we must press forward together in unity with respect to Iran’s nuclear program.” Kerry also said close cooperation between the two was essential to deal with other world problems such as conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria.

The U.S. had hoped to secure stricter rules governing territorial claims in Asia’s contested, resource-rich seas, but Yang signaled that Beijing’s position hasn’t changed. He urged the U.S. not to take sides and to adopt an “objective position.”

American allies Japan and the Philippines, as well as Vietnam, have become increasingly worried by Chinese efforts to drill for oil or assert authority in waters they consider their own. China also has tried to enforce control over contested airspace.

Report compiled with information from The Associated Press and Reuters.