US, China cyber group holds first meeting since anti-hacking deal

A group of senior officials from the United States and China on Wednesday held its first meeting on cybersecurity issues in accordance with an anti-hacking pledge struck by the two nations in September.

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The so-called Senior Experts Group addressed “international norms of state behavior and other crucial issues for international security in cyberspace,” according to a State Department statement that provided few other details.

The meeting was led on the U.S. side by Christopher Painter, coordinator for cyber issues at State, and Wang Qun, director-general of the Department of Arms Control in China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the Chinese side.

Other officials from the State Department, the Department of Defense, Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security were also present.

The group is expected to meet twice a year.

Cybersecurity — specifically, allegations of wholesale pilfering of U.S. data by Beijing-backed hackers — has long haunted the U.S.-China trade relationship.

In September, the two nations struck a deal that neither would hack the other for commercial gain.

Although some security experts saw the move as a constructive first step — China has not historically drawn a distinction between economic espionage and traditional intelligence gathering — many are skeptical Beijing is holding up its end of the bargain.

The deal also established the senior-level meetings, among the first ministry-level dialogues on cyber issues since China pulled out of a separate bilateral working group in 2014 over allegations that members of the Chinese military had hacked U.S. companies.

Officials separate from the new group have met since the deal. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and China’s public security minister, Guo Shengkun, met in November in Washington, D.C., to discuss the new deal.

China’s foreign ministry said Wednesday’s talks were "positive, deep and constructive” and that the two nations would hold their next meeting within six months, Reuters reports.