US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel yesterday accused China of waging cyberespionage against the US, raising pressure on Beijing over the issue ahead of a key summit between their leaders.
The Pentagon chief, speaking at a Singapore security forum attended by senior Chinese military officials, pointedly blamed the Chinese government and armed forces for repeated intrusions into sensitive US information systems.
“The United States has expressed our concerns about the growing threat of cyberintrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military,” Hagel told an annual conference known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.
Hagel pressed Beijing to adhere to “international norms of responsible behavior in cyberspace,” while acknowledging that the establishment of a joint cybersecurity working group was a positive step in fostering dialogue.
The Singapore conference took place ahead of a meeting US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in California, the first meeting between the two leaders since Xi took office in March.
Hagel’s remarks came just days after the Chinese Ministry of Defense dismissed a Pentagon report accusing Chinese hackers of accessing US weapons designs.
“First they underestimate the security defense capabilities of the Pentagon and second they underestimate the intelligence of the Chinese people,” it said.
The report was the most explicit statement yet from Washington that it believes China’s cyberspying is focused on the US government and corporations.
In his speech, Hagel insisted that Washington’s military “rebalance” toward Asia-Pacific — a policy announced at the forum last year by his predecessor Leon Panetta — will not be affected by cuts in US military spending.
He said the US Air Force had allocated 60 percent of its overseas-based forces to the region including tactical aircraft and bombers. Hagel added that 2,500 US Marines would eventually be deployed to Australia each year as part of the effort.
Last year, Washington announced a major naval deployment to Asia, including the rotation of up to four littoral combat ships — newly developed vessels designed for coastal operations — to Singapore, a staunch US supporter.
Hagel said Washington remained concerned “over the potential for dangerous miscalculations or crises” arising from competing territorial claims in Asia.
Other defense officials warned the forum against an arms race in Asia, where governments, boosted by stronger economic growth and worried by regional tensions, are modernizing their armed forces.