Obama, Xi to talk cybersecurity, other issues

WASHINGTON (AP) — Alleged high-tech spying from inside China will top the agenda when President Barack Obama sits down this weekend in California with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but other topics including Syria and China’s record on human rights also will be discussed, senior Obama administration officials said Tuesday.

The White House sees cybersecurity as a leading threat to the U.S economy and national security.

A recent government report found that more than 40 Pentagon weapons programs and nearly 30 other defense technologies have been compromised by cyber intrusions from China. The cybersecurity firm Mandiant also has linked a secret Chinese military unit to years of cyber-attacks against U.S. companies.

The Chinese government denies it engages in such spying against the U.S.

The Obama administration officials said they expect the cybersecurity issue to become a standing one in relations between the two countries going forward. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be quoted by name previewing the meeting.

Two days of private meetings between Obama and Xi are scheduled to begin Friday evening at Sunnylands, a 200-acre estate in Rancho Mirage, Calif., once owned by the late publishing tycoon Walter Annenberg. It will be their first get-together since Xi took power in March.

The schedule also includes a private dinner on Friday followed by additional talks on Saturday morning.

Beyond cybersecurity, Obama also will raise China’s record on human rights, ranging from censorship to the illegal detention of dissidents.

The civil war in Syria is another likely topic for discussion, though China is seen as having less influence on that issue than Russia, because of Russia’s steadfast support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, including its supplying weapons to the Assad government.

North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons will also be a topic of discussion. In a shift from his predecessor welcomed by the U.S., Xi has taken a stern tone with North Korea and has told the North to return to nuclear talks with the U.S. and other world powers. The U.S. long has pushed China to take more aggressive action against North Korea. China is the North’s strongest ally and biggest trading partner.

The Obama-Xi talks will be followed by a July meeting between U.S. and Chinese officials that will focus on cyber espionage.

Taking the bilateral talks outside of the White House and to a Southern California venue with sweeping mountain views and a lush golf course is aimed at forging more personal ties between the leaders as relations between the global powers they represent become increasingly complex.

The expectation by the White House is that the setting at Sunnylands will encourage a more informal and less scripted set of discussions between Obama and Xi than U.S. and Chinese officials have had to date.

Xi and Obama first met last year when Xi was vice president and he visited the White House. Xi has a warm relationship with Vice President Joe Biden that blossomed when they traveled together throughout China during Biden’s 2011 visit.

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