The U.S. and China both say they want to directly discuss the issue of cybersecurity, but the odds of an open discussion are slim at best.
The Chinese government today responded to a U.S. invitation to enter into a dialogue with the U.S. over acceptable behavior in cyberspace, Reuters reported.
At a daily news briefing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chuying said that "China is willing, on the basis of the principles of mutual respect and mutual trust, to have constructive dialogue and cooperation on this issue with the international community including the United States to maintain the security, openness, and peace of the Internet."
The Foreign Ministry was responding to comments made yesterday by Tom Donilon, President Obama's national security adviser. In a speech given at the Asia Society in New York City, Donilon called on the Chinese government to acknowledge and halt its hacking activities against the United States.
"We need a recognition of the urgency and scope of this problem and the risk it poses -- to international trade, to the reputation of Chinese industry, and to our overall relations," Donilon said. "Beijing should take serious steps to investigate and put a stop to these activities. Finally, we need China to engage with us in a constructive direct dialogue to establish acceptable norms of behavior in cyberspace."
The two countries have engaged in a war of words as of late, each accusing the other of cyberattacks.
A report released last month by security firm Mandiant claimed digital forensic evidence of a Chinese hacking group operating out of the headquarters of a unit of the People's Liberation Army. The report accused the group of launching a series of cyberattacks against foreign governments.
China denied the accusations and attempted to poke holes in the report by citing a lack of hard evidence. As one example, Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said that Mandiant relied on IP addresses to point to China as the source of the attacks. But he noted that IP addresses can be spoofed, making it difficult to determine the true source of a hacking attempt.
Instead, China has portrayed itself as the victim of cyberattacks, claiming an average of 144,000 cyberattacks per month against its military sites last year. The Chinese government also blamed the U.S. for almost two-thirds of them.
Wang Hongguang, a deputy commander of the PLA's Nanjing Military District, called the U.S. "a thief calling others a thief," Reuters reported. But he also said that China should develop its own capability for hacking attacks as a way to defend itself against other countries.