Cyber disputes loom large as Obama meets China's Xi

Fri Jun 7, 2013 7:10pm EDT
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By Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick

RANCHO MIRAGE, California (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will complain to Chinese President Xi Jinping at a summit on Friday about suspected Chinese cyber hacking of U.S. secrets, even as the White House faces growing questions at home over American government surveillance.

Meeting at the luxurious Sunnylands estate near Palm Springs in California, Obama will seek Xi's assurance that he takes seriously accusations of growing Chinese cyber spying, including snooping on advanced U.S. weapons designs.

"All nations need to abide by international norms and affirm clear rules of the road," a senior U.S. official told reporters. "That's the backdrop to the discussions that the two presidents will have."

Dispute over cybersecurity could test the two leaders' ability to get along when they meet in the California desert in talks that are billed as an informal get-to-know-you encounter.

Obama, who arrived at the sun-baked summit venue on Friday afternoon and will welcome his Chinese counterpart later in the day, intends to tell Xi that Washington considers Beijing responsible for any cyber attacks originating from its territory and that it must take action, U.S. officials said.

But in his first meeting with Obama since taking over China's presidency in March, Xi may not be in a conciliatory mood.

He is expected to voice discomfort over Washington's strategic "pivot" toward Asia, a military rebalancing of U.S. forces toward the Pacific that Beijing sees as an effort to hamper its economic and political expansion. He also wants a new "big power" relationship that takes into account China's rise.

And Obama's protests about Chinese cyberspying might be blunted by news that the U.S. government has been quietly collecting the telephone records of millions of Americans as part of U.S. counter-terrorism efforts.   Continued...

Protestors adjust signs as they demonstrate on an empty lot blocks from where Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Rancho Mirage, California June 7, 2013. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich