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US to ask China to restart cyber working group

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The United States wants to restart a cybersecurity working group that shut down after the US indicted five Chinese military officers on charges of hacking into American companies' computers to steal trade secrets.

US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel said that United States is ready to resume those discussions, which he described as "useful and important," if China is.

Russel said officials would raise it at the annual US-China Security and Economic Dialogue in in two weeks. The dialogue will be attended by Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.

After the indictments against the five officers were unsealed in May, Beijing pulled the plug on the group. It had been set up a year ago in what viewed at the time as a diplomatic coup after US President and China's President Xi Jinping held a summit in California aiming to set relations between the two global powers on a positive track.

Those ties have also come under growing strain because of China's assertive actions in the disputed South and East China seas.

Russel, the top US diplomat for East Asia, had reiterated those concerns in an interview yesterday, saying the US views it as essential that China show greater restraint and use diplomacy to manage its differences on territorial issues.

Asian nations, particularly treaty allies like Japan and the Philippines, look to the US to counter China's increasingly muscular actions, but some in the region have voiced doubts about whether the second-term Obama administration can follow through on its commitment to focus on the Asia-Pacific because of its preoccupation with the chaos in the Middle East.

Russel said Asia remains a strategic US priority, even as Washington considers some form of military action to combat the rapid advances of Sunni militants in Iraq who now straddle the border with Syria.

"The fact that events conspired to demand high-level U.S. attention in the Middle East or elsewhere is simply a fact of life," Russel said.

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