In US-China talks on cyber conflict, a top Chinese general owns to dangers
At a press briefing in Beijing with Martin Dempsey, chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Fang Fenghui offered some agreement on the damage of cyberattacks, a 'friction point' in US-China relations.
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Dempsey's visit this week, considered relatively long at three-plus days, comes on the heels of a report released in February from a cybersecurity firm that charges that a special dedicated cell of China’s People's Liberation Army, housed in a building in downtown Beijing, is waging cyberattacks on the United States.Skip to next paragraph
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“At a very particular building in China, a group of individuals has undertaken systematic exfiltration of a variety of materials related to the defense of the United States, among other things, over a substantial period of time,” is how FBI Director Robert Mueller described the report in a hearing on Capitol Hill earlier this month.
Recently, the US military has begun to respond to such intrusions in part by advertising its own talents in cyberoffense – long a highly secret topic for the Pentagon – in the hopes it would prove to be a deterrent, in the way veiled threats sometimes are.
The US Air Force, for example, now has a line item in its budget for cyberoffense, including “exfiltration of information while operating within adversary operating systems.” The force will spend more than twice on offensive cyber research what it will on research for cyberdefense next year, according to the same budget documents.
Senior US officials, increasingly arguing that the nation needs it, say they are particularly concerned about China’s economic cyber-espionage, which includes the sort of “exfiltration of information” mentioned in the new defense budget as a cyberoffensive skill that US forces would like to hone.
On that point, US military officials are hoping that America’s cyber enemies see an implicit quid pro quo link.
Dempsey emphasized some links during his trip, as well. Though the US is currently the top economy in the world, “they’re closing,” he said of China, adding that “at some point” the Chinese may “find themselves in the preeminent” economic position.
In that case, they may have a greater interest in coming to an agreement on cyber.
“Cyber threatens our economy and their economy,” Dempsey said of the attacks. “The time to try to resolve those issues is now.”