Xi in DC
No Cyber Deal with China?

The White House was trying to lower expectations for a cyber arms deal with China. Though reports emerged earlier this week that the United States and China were hard at work trying to hammer out some kind of accord to be jointly announced by Obama and Xi, it looks like that won’t happen. Defense One has the story:

“I don’t want to suggest that, you know, we’ve reached an arms control agreement here,” said Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security advisor for strategic communications.

The sentiment was seconded by Dan Kritenbrink, the senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council. “I would be reluctant to raise expectations about an agreement along the lines of what you just described,” he said. “That would be a long-term goal. We’re a long ways from getting there.”

The agreement, reported by the New York Times last weekend, was not expected to address the widespread hacking of private American companies. Nor is it clear that such an agreement would be anything more than symbolic, given that China and the United States are unlikely to attack each other’s critical infrastructure anyway, as James Andrew Lewis of CSIS points out. Additionally, cyber attacks are much harder to trace than conventional attacks. It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to verify compliance.

Still, Administration officials’ statements came as the Office of Personnel Management revealed that the hack of its databases by Chinese intelligence also seized the fingerprints of 5.6 million federal employees. As he smiles for photographers with influential American business leaders, Xi’s methods seem pretty clear: talk nice, but act tough.

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