US: US and Chinese defence chiefs pledged Monday to work together on cyber threats and forge a dialogue on security as both sides steered clear of a diplomatic dispute over a top Chinese dissident. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and China’s Defence Minister Liang Guanglie struck a positive note at a joint press conference at the Pentagon, announcing a joint counter-piracy naval exercise in the Gulf of Aden later this year and tentative plans to cooperate in the sensitive realm of cyber security. Liang’s trip marked the first visit by a Chinese defence minister to Washington in nine years and US defence officals were anxious to avoid any mention of blind rights campaigner Chen Guangcheng.
Chen “didn’t come up” in the talks and officials had said beforehand that his fate was a subject for US diplomats at the State Department, not the Pentagon.
The dissident dramatically escaped house arrest and took refuge at the US embassy in Beijing on April 26, creating a dilemma for both governments just days before the arrival of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Diplomats later said that a deal had been negotiated allowing Chen to head to the United States with his family to study. But China warned the United States to take measures to avoid a repeat of the Chen incident.
At the Pentagon news conference, Liang rejected US allegations that China is behind numerous cyber intrusions against US networks, but said both sides were ready to launch cooperative efforts to counter digital threats.
“In our discussion, we also talked about the possible ways that China and the US can jointly work on to try to find ways to strengthen... cybersecurity,” Liang said through an interpreter. The details would be worked out by “experts,” he said.
Panetta welcomed Liang’s offer and said “because the United States and China have developed technological capabilities in this arena, it’s extremely important that we work together to develop ways to avoid any miscalculation or misperception that could lead to crisis in this area.”