The US wants to restart a cybersecurity working group that China shut down after the US indicted five Chinese military officers on charges of hacking into US companies’ computers to steal trade secrets.
US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel told reporters that the US is ready to resume those discussions, which he described as “useful and important,” if China is.
Russel said US officials would raise it at the annual US-China Security and Economic Dialogue in Beijing in two weeks.
The dialogue is to be attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
After the indictments against the five officers were unsealed last month, Beijing pulled the plug on the group.
It had been set up a year ago in what Washington viewed at the time as a diplomatic coup after US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) held a summit in California aiming to set relations between the two global powers on a positive track.
Those ties have also come under growing strain because of China’s assertive actions in the disputed South and East China seas.
Russel, the top US diplomat for East Asia, reiterated those concerns in an interview on Thursday, saying the US views it as essential that China show greater restraint and use diplomacy to manage its differences on territorial issues.
Asian nations, particularly treaty allies like Japan and the Philippines, look to the US to counter China’s increasingly muscular actions, but some in the region have voiced doubts about whether the second-term Obama administration can follow through on its commitment to focus on the Asia-Pacific region because of its preoccupation with the chaos in the Middle East.
Russel said Asia remains a strategic US priority, even as Washington considers some form of military action to combat the rapid advances of Sunni militants in Iraq who now straddle the border with Syria.
“The fact that events conspired to demand high-level US attention in the Middle East or elsewhere is simply a fact of life,” Russel said.
“It’s always been thus. The strategic imperative, though, that’s made the Asia-Pacific region a priority for us in security, economic and political terms is unaffected by the short-term demands of crisess here and there,” he added
“I have no trouble in enlisting Secretary Kerry’s efforts on our agenda in the region,” Russel added. “And that applies to the president and vice president as well.”
Kerry and Lew are to lead the US delegation at the talks in Beijing, which are an annual fixture and viewed as important in forging a more cooperative relationship with Beijing, notwithstanding current frictions and China’s growing challenge to the US’ post-World War II military predominance in the Asia-Pacific region.
The two sides are to discuss issues, including turmoil in the Middle East, North Korea’s nuclear program and cooperation on climate change, and the US is expected to raise the issue of human rights.
They are also expected to address a slew of economic and trade issues, including progress on a bilateral investment treaty that China agreed to negotiate in earnest at last year’s talks.
While the cyberworking group remains on hold, Russel said the US side is to raise concerns over cyberenabled theft of US corporate data and intellectual property that the US contends is shared with Chinese state-owned enterprises for commercial gain.