The United States next month will urge China to resume discussions on cybersecurity that were suspended abruptly after the U.S. charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into U.S. companies to steal trade secrets, a U.S. official said Thursday.
Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel told The Associated Press the U.S. would push for a resumption of the cyber working group when Cabinet-level officials of both sides meet at the annual U.S.-China Security and Economic Dialogue in Beijing in the second week of July.
After the indictments against the five officers were unsealed in May, 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 President Barack Obama and China's President Xi Jinping held a summit in California, aiming to set relations between the two global powers on a positive track.
Those ties have come under growing strain, also because of China's assertive actions in the disputed South and East China seas. Russel, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, reiterated those concerns Thursday, saying the U.S. 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 U.S. 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, because of its preoccupation with the chaos in the Middle East.
Russel said Asia remains a strategic U.S. 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 U.S. 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 crises here and there.
"I have no trouble in enlisting Secretary (of State John) Kerry's efforts on our agenda in the region," Russel added, "and that applies to the president and vice president as well."