Kerry seeks common ground with China

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BEIJING — Seeking to put the best face on a difficult relationship with Beijing, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that the United States and China could find ways to manage their differences and had more in common than not.

Neither side wanted to fall into the “trap of zero sum competition,” Mr. Kerry said at the conclusion of an annual strategic and economic dialogue between top officials of the two countries.

The array of topics with some areas of agreement — climate change, Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan — attested to the viability of the relationship, he said.

Still, Kerry used fairly blunt language in an effort to persuade President Xi Jinping that the United States did not intend its 60-year system of alliances in Asia to encircle and contain China. “We mean what we say when we emphasize that there’s no U.S. strategy to try to push back against or be in conflict with China,” he said, as Mr. Xi sat beside him during a farewell session at the Great Hall of the People.

Mr. Kerry was indirectly replying to charges by Chinese officials that President Barack Obama had reinvigorated the U.S. network of alliances in Asia with the idea of containing China and its fast modernizing military. In response, Mr. Xi has initiated a campaign that calls for a new security architecture of Asia for the Asians.

New accusations that Chinese hackers had attacked highly sensitive U.S. material were brusquely dismissed by China, even as the U.S. delegation, headed by Mr. Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, tried to press cyber espionage as an important issue at the conference.

The Foreign Ministry dismissed assertions in a New York Times article that Chinese hackers had infiltrated U.S. government computer systems that house personal information of federal employees. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the article was part of what he called an irresponsible anti-China smear campaign.

The article, first published Wednesday on the Times‘‍ website, said the hackers had gained access to some of the databases of the Office of Personnel Management before U.S. authorities detected the breach and thwarted further access. It remained unclear what kind of information, if any, was compromised in the attack, which was said to have happened in March.

Asked about the article at a regular Foreign Ministry press briefing, a spokesman, Hong Lei, repeated China’s long-standing position that it opposes cyberhacking. “This is what we say and what we have been doing,” he said. “Recently, some American media and Internet security firms keep playing the card of China Internet Threat and smear China’s image. They cannot produce tenable evidence. Such reports and comments are irresponsible and are not worth refuting.”

Asked about the article at a closing news conference, Mr. Kerry said he and Mr. Lew had been unaware of the attack described in the article and did not raise it with Chinese officials, although the broader subject of cybersecurity was discussed. “We were notified about this alleged incident minutes before coming out here,” Mr. Kerry said. He said the article was about attempted “intrusions” that were still being investigated, and it did not appear that sensitive material had been compromised.

A senior U.S. official who participated in sessions Thursday with the Chinese said the case of the Office of Personnel Management hacking was not raised by either side. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to talk about a delicate matter.

The Chinese, angered by a Justice Department indictment in May of five People’s Liberation Army members on charges of cyberespionage, refused a U.S. request at the dialogue to restart a joint cyber working group. China suspended the work of the group that brought together U.S. and Chinese negotiators to discuss cyber issues and has complained that National Security Agency documents made public by Edward Snowden, the former U.S. intelligence worker, showed that the United States had used cyber espionage to gain economic advantage.

Mr. Xi, who invited the U.S. and Chinese delegations to meet him Thursday at a session that was partly open to reporters, called upon the two countries to work on building a “new model of major country relationship,” a phrase he frequently uses to imply an equal status between the United States and China. It is an expression that the Obama administration has been reluctant to endorse for fear that it would confer legitimacy to China’s various territorial claims, including in the East China and South China seas.

The Obama administration sent senior officials to the dialogue, including Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet L. Yellen, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Obama counselor John Podesta, who specializes in climate change. The U.S. officials appeared pleased about what they called serious discussions on how to reduce carbon emissions. The presence of Mr. Podesta, who the Chinese know is close to Mr. Obama and is committed to climate change policies, added weight, they said.

A joint working group on climate change announced that both countries would develop new greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards. “This effort has to be mutual and has to be accompanied by commitments which are defined by the actions we will actually take,” Mr. Kerry said. “It’s not about one country making a demand of the other.”

Even so, China’s chief climate official, Xie Zhenhua, said China, which still considers itself a developing country, should not be subject to the same rules for greenhouse gas emissions as the United States, suggesting that Beijing will oppose attempts to impose such standards at next year’s world climate conference in Paris.

United States - North America - East Asia - Asia - China - Greater China - Barack Obama - Beijing - China government - John Kerry - Jacob Lew - Xi Jinping - Edward Snowden - Ernest Moniz - Penny Pritzker - John Podesta - Mike Froman - Hong Lei


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