US President Barack Obama confronted Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) over allegations of cybertheft on Saturday, but they agreed at a summit in the California desert on reining in North Korea.
The two leaders debated how to handle China’s growth as a world power more than 40 years after former US president Richard Nixon’s visit to former Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) China in 1972 ended decades of estrangement between Washington and Beijing.
While Obama publicly emphasized the US’ desire for a “peaceful rise” by China, privately, he laid out examples to Xi of what Washington says is Chinese cyberthievery.
US officials have voiced alarm at cyberspying from China that has hit US businesses and Obama is under pressure to take steps to stop it.
Obama’s message to Xi carried a warning “that if it’s not addressed, if it continues to be this direct theft of United States property, that this was going to be a very difficult problem in the economic relationship,” White House national security adviser Thomas Donilon said.
Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) told reporters Beijing wanted cooperation with Washington over cybersecurity.
While cyberattacks were a sore spot, the two leaders found common ground on North Korea, whose belligerent rhetoric, nuclear tests and missile launches have frustrated its only ally, Beijing, and raised tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.
US officials came away from the summit feeling that China is ready to work with the US on North Korea.
Donilon told reporters that Obama and Xi “agreed that North Korea has to denuclearize, that neither country will accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state and that we would work together to deepen cooperation and dialogue to achieve denuclearization.”
In one tangible outcome of the summit, Obama and Xi agreed to cooperate on cutting the use of hydrofluorocarbons, dubbed “super greenhouse gases.”
China experts say that if Obama and Xi can develop personal rapport and make some progress on substantive issues, the summit could gain historic significance.
This story has been corrected since it was first published.