For the first time, a top US official has directly accused China of infiltrating the Pentagon's computer networks. But the US defense chief said Washington wants to resolve its differences with Beijing through dialogue.
In a speech delivered to an audience that included high-ranking Chinese military officials, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the Shangri-La Security Dialogue in Singapore on Saturday that Washington suspected Beijing was behind a series of cyber attacks on US computer networks.
"The United States has expressed our concerns about the growing threat of cyber intrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military," Hagel said.
"We are determined to work more vigorously with China and other partners to establish international norms of responsible behavior in cyberspace," he said, adding that Washington planned to set up a working group with China on cyber warfare.
A Pentagon report published on May 7 had accused Beijing of cyber attacks against US government and corporate computer networks. But Hagel's comments were the first time a senior Obama administration official had publicly pointed the finger at China.
Beijing has repeatedly denied accusations that its military is behind a wave of cyber attacks that have targeted the Pentagon as well as US newspapers and corporations. China claims that it has also been the target of cyber attacks and does not sanction such activity.
US pivot to Pacific
Hagel also said that despite cuts in the US defense budget, Washington was committed to shifting its strategic weight to the Asia-Pacific region.
He said that Washington was committed to stationing 60 percent of its air power in the region. That builds on a promise by Hagel's predecessor as Pentagon chief, Leon Panetta, to deploy 60 percent of US naval power to the Pacific by 2020.
"It would be unwise and shortsighted to conclude… that our commitment to the rebalance cannot be sustained," Hagel said in prepared remarks on Saturday.
During the Shangri-La conference, Chinese Major General Yao Yunzhu said Bejing was concerned that the US military buildup in the region was aimed at containing China. He asked Hagel what Washington could do to reassure Beijing about US intentions in the region.
"That's really the whole point behind closer military-to-military relations," Hagel said in his answer to the general's question. "We don't want miscalculations and misunderstandings and misinterpretations."
Hagel's comments in Singapore come ahead of a planned meeting between US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in California from June 7-8.
slk/ipj (AFP, Reuters)