DOJ officials pull out of China cyber talks for Orlando investigation

DOJ officials pull out of China cyber talks for Orlando investigation
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Both Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson are pulling out of ministerial-level cybersecurity talks with China scheduled in Beijing this week in response to the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday.

Both cited the ongoing investigation into the attack, which killed 50 and injured dozens more at a gay nightclub.

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The second U.S.-China High-Level Joint Dialogue on Cybercrime and Related Issues was intended to follow up on a December meeting in Washington, D.C.

The December meeting was 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.

Johnson and Lynch were expected to meet their Chinese counterparts this week to discuss “a range of homeland security-related issues of mutual concern,” including cybersecurity.

Regular bilateral meetings were part of a package of agreements — including an anti-hacking pact — reached during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s official state visit in September.

During the state visit, President Obama and Xi agreed that neither the U.S. nor the Chinese government will “conduct or knowingly support cyber theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information for commercial advantage,” Obama said during a joint press conference in September.

Since then, speculation has swirled around whether China will keep its word, with skeptical lawmakers pressuring Obama to retaliate for the barrage of intrusions into U.S. firms and federal agencies.

Last month, a separate group of senior officials from the United States and China held its first meeting on cybersecurity issues in accordance with the anti-hacking pledge.

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.

That group is expected to meet twice a year.