WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration demanded Monday that China take steps to stop the widespread hacking of American government and corporate computer networks and that it engage in a dialogue to set standards for security in cyberspace.
The demands, laid out in a speech by President Obama's national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, represent the first direct response by the White House to a raft of attacks on American computer networks, many of which appear to have originated with the People's Liberation Army.
"U.S. businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyberintrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale," Mr. Donilon said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Asia Society in New York.
He also announced that the Treasury Department would impose sanctions on a North Korean bank that specializes in foreign-exchange transactions -- ratcheting up the pressure on the North Korean government on the day that Pyongyang announced it would no longer abide by the 1953 armistice that halted the Korean War.
The White House, he said, was seeking three things from Beijing: public recognition of the urgency of the problem; a commitment to crack down on hackers operating in China; and an agreement to take part in a dialogue to establish "acceptable norms of behavior in cyberspace."
Until now, the White House has steered clear of mentioning China by name when discussing cybercrime, prompted in part by qualms about escalating a dispute with Beijing while it is in the midst of a leadership transition. In his State of the Union address, Mr. Obama said, "we know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets."
But as evidence has emerged linking the People's Liberation Army to an extensive hacking network, the China connection has become harder for the administration to avoid.
Mr. Donilon said the threats to cybersecurity had moved to the forefront of its concerns with China, noting that he was not "talking about ordinary cybercrime or hacking."
But although Mr. Donilon emphasized the importance of developing a code of conduct on cybersecurity, he made no mention of Washington's attacks on the computer networks in Iran, which have impeded Tehran's development of nuclear centrifuge machines.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.