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US, China Kick Off Wide-ranging Talks

by Pamela Dockins June 22, 2015

U.S. and Chinese officials have launched three days of high-level talks in Washington on issues including climate change, cyber security and maritime concerns.

They opened Monday with a series of wide-ranging Strategic Security Dialogue meetings.

"The Strategic Security Dialogue is actually the highest level of civilian-military conversation that we have with China during the year," said a senior State Department official.

The talks include a focus on issues most likely to drive "strategic mistrust" between the U.S. and China, the official said.

Cyber Concerns

One of those issues is cybersecurity, a focal point in Monday's talks, and one of the issues that will be discussed at the broader U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which gets unto full swing on Tuesday.

The U.S. is investigating a massive cyberattack that targeted the private records of about 4 million current and former federal government employees.

Investigators say it appears the attack began last year, although it was not detected until two months ago.

The U.S. government has not openly accused China of being behind the hack. However, officials have said an investigation is underway to determine if there is a China link.

A senior State Department official said the U.S. and China have had ongoing discussions about "all of the various aspects of cyber security."

"The issue will be addressed in pretty direct terms with the Chinese," the official said.

The U.S. and China do not always agree on the approach to cyber security and cyber defense, said State Department spokesman John Kirby.

"It is certainly one of those areas where there is room for better cooperation, better dialogue and more transparency," he said.

Climate Initiatives

On Monday, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz outlined a series of collaborative efforts between the U.S. and China on climate change, including a Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage project.

The renewable energy project involves capturing carbon dioxide emissions from sources such as coal plants with a goal of either reusing the emissions or storing them so that they do not enter the atmosphere.

"The United States and China continue to lead the drive to press our clean energy ambition further, both in our countries and globally," said Moniz.

At the same session on Monday, China's Special Representative for Climate Change, Xie Zhenhua, said the U.S. and China could have a significant impact on climate change at the bilateral and multilateral levels.

South China Sea Building

One of the thornier issues the U.S. will raise with China is Beijing's construction activity in disputed regions of the South China Sea.

The U.S. voiced concern that China's construction on islands and reefs may restrict movement of foreign vessels and planes. China has said its construction is "lawful."

"It is not about accepting the status quo," said Kirby.

Kirby said the U.S. had made clear its concerns about the land reclamation activities and the militarization of at least some of the islands.

On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden will deliver remarks at the opening of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which will include additional sessions on climate change as well as a women's leadership dialogue.

Officials say the three-day dialogue will also help set the stage for Chinese President Xi Jinping's September visit to Washington.

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