US defence secretary Chuck Hagel warns of global cyberthreat

US defence secretary says cyberwarfare a threat to all; China backs talks on the issue at forum

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 June, 2013, 4:20am

Cyberthreats posed a "quiet, stealthy, insidious" danger to the United States and other nations, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said yesterday as he called for "rules of the road" to guide behaviour and avoid conflict on global networks.

Hagel said he would address cybersecurity in his speech today to the Shangri-La Security Dialogue in Singapore and the issue was likely to come up in a meeting with Chinese delegates on the margins of the conference.

Cyberconflict could lead to taking down power grids to destroying financial systems or neutralising defence networks, Hagel said.

"That's not a unique threat to the United States, [it affects] everybody, so we've got to find ways here … working with the Chinese, working with everybody, [to develop] rules of the road," he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China wanted to exchange views with US officials on "relevant issues" on the sidelines of the meeting.

"We believe that on this issue both sides should sit down and carry out an even-tempered discussion. We should make the cybersecurity issue a highlight of bilateral co-operation and make joint efforts to maintain an open, co-operative, secure and transparent cyberspace," he said.

China has sent Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo , deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, to attend the forum.

Hagel's remarks came two days after reports said the Defence Science Board - a committee of civilian experts who advise the US Defence Department - concluded that Chinese hackers had gained access to the designs of more than two dozen major US weapons systems in recent years.

Hagel said he had invited Defence Minister Chang Wanquan to visit the US and a trip was being organised for August.

At last year's Shangri-La Dialogue, then US defence secretary Leon Panetta said the majority of the US naval fleet would gradually be shifted to the Pacific.

Ni Lexiong , director of the Sea Power and Defence Policy Research Institute at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said China would face a problem at the forum because other Asian nations would team up with the US to exert pressure on China over territorial disputes.

"China is likely to reiterate that such disputes should be discussed through a bilateral platform," he said. "China does not expect a significant outcome from the forum, and will not send high-ranking officials to attend."

Reuters, Agence France-Presse