US senator seeks China aid on nuke threat, hacks

Updated: 2013-03-19 10:59

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily)

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US Senator Carl Levin called on China to continue to assist efforts to contain the nuclear threat posed by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and stop cyber attacks against the US and American organizations, which China denied.

Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, described the cyberattacks as "major threats" to US-China relations.

"We've got to find ways to persuade China it's not in their interest and it doesn't benefit our relationship for these kinds of attacks to continue," the Michigan Democrat told a meeting at the Washington office of Council on Foreign Relations on Monday.

Earlier this month, Levin announced that he won't seek a seventh term in the Senate and will retire at the end of his current term in January 2015.

His talk came a week after US National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon urged Beijing to recognize the urgency of the problem and crack down on hackers.

On Sunday, China's new premier, Li Keqiang, rejected the US accusations.

"China does not support but indeed opposes such attacks," Li said at his first news conference since becoming head of the cabinet.

He said hacker attacks in cyberspace are a worldwide problem and that China itself is a major target.

"We should not make groundless accusations against each other and should spend more time doing practical things that will contribute to cyber security," Li said.

A day after Donilon spoke, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China has long urged the international community to make cyberspace peaceful, open and cooperative and opposed turning it into a battlefield.

The US has lobbed numerous accusations against China over cyber attacks, with Beijing responding with denials. It has also said that most of the hacking attacks against Chinese entities originated from the United States.

A former State Department official told China Daily on condition of anonymity that recent media reports in the US regarding Chinese cyber attacks have overlooked the fact that the US has conducted many such activities.

On Friday, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea accused the US and South Korea of launching cyber attacks against it.

Internet access for personal computers and mobile phones in the country's capital, Pyongyang, became unavailable on Wednesday due to hacking attacks, according to Star Joint Venture, an Internet service provider in the DPRK. Service resumed Friday morning, it said.

The DPRK accusation came just days after the US and South Korea began a joint military exercise, named Key Resolve, on Monday.

In response, Pyongyang has scrapped the armistice that effectively suspended, but didn't officially end, the 1950-53 Korean War. It also cut off its hotline to Seoul that, since 1971, has allowed the two sides to maintain regular communication over security matters.

Tensions have run high since the DPRK conducted its third nuclear test on Feb 12, resulting in unanimous adoption, including by China, of a United Nations Security Council resolution to sanction the isolated regime.

Levin said on Monday that it would be helpful if China continued its recently robust efforts to contain the DPRK's nuclear and missile programs.

"That will be good news if China continues to move in this direction," the senator said.

China has insisted that diplomacy and negotiation should be used to resolve the issues with Pyongyang.

Charles Armstrong, director of Columbia University's Center for Korean Research, said China could do more in enforcing the UN sanctions. In return, Washington should work with Beijing to achieve what China's UN ambassador, Li Baodong, has called a "comprehensive solution", Armstrong said.

"Such a solution must include negotiation and dialogue between the US and DPRK, as well as China, South Korea and other relevant parties," he said.

China on Monday urged the US to act prudently on its plans, announced by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday, to bolster its missile defense system in response to the DPRK nuclear threat.

"The anti-missile issue has a direct bearing on global and regional balance and stability. It also concerns mutual strategic interests between countries," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a regular briefing. "Actions such as strengthening anti-missile defenses will intensify antagonism and will not be beneficial to finding a solution for the problem."

"The problem with missile defense is not that it will antagonize North Korea, although it may, but it is unnecessary," Armstrong said.

The DPRK, he said, doesn't pose a threat to US territory in the foreseeable future.

"Using the North Korean threat to push through missile defense is a distraction from addressing the real issues involved, such as denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and reducing the situation of conflict" he said.

Xinhua News Agency contributed to this report.