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US demands China act to halt network hacking

Until now, the Obama administration has steered clear of mentioning China by name when discussing cybercrime.

AP/File

Until now, the Obama administration has steered clear of mentioning China by name when discussing cybercrime.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration demanded Monday that China take steps to stop the widespread hacking of US 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 US computer networks, many of which appear to have originated with the People’s Liberation Army.

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“US 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,’’ Donilon said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Asia Society in New York.

He also said the Treasury Department would sanction a North Korean bank that specializes in foreign-exchange transactions — ratcheting up the pressure on the North Korean government on the day Pyongyang said 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.

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.

Donilon said the threats to cybersecurity had moved to the forefront of concerns about China.

Donilon made no mention of Washington’s attacks on computer networks in Iran, which have impeded Tehran’s development of nuclear centrifuge machines.

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