US President Barack Obama took his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to task over the weekend for the Communist state's alleged swiping of American intellectual property.
White House national security advisor Thomas Donilon told reporters that the president had gone over the issue of cyber-espionage and the digital theft of technology designs "in some detail" with the Chinese leader.
"The President… asked the Chinese government to engage on this issue and understand that it is - if it's not addressed, if it continues to be this direct theft of United States' property, that this was going to be a very difficult problem in the economic relationship and was going to be an inhibitor to the relationship really reaching its full potential," he said.
Xi told a news conference with Obama on Friday that China was a victim of cyber-attacks itself, but that it wanted to work with the US to develop a common approach, while state councillor Yang Jiechi told reporters in Beijing the same thing.
"Cybersecurity should not become the root cause of mutual suspicion and friction, rather it should be a new bright spot in our cooperation," Yang said, according to Reuters.
Donilon said that cybersecurity was now "really at the centre of the relationship".
"We've undertaken, as you know, a systematic effort with respect to this issue. We have had conversations with the Chinese about it over the course of the last year or so," he said. "And we have had increasingly direct conversations with the Chinese through the various dialogues that we've set up.
"It is not an adjunct issue, it's an issue that is very much on the table at this point."
He also said that Obama had told President Xi that the US "did not have any doubt about what is going on here".
The US has increasingly and openly blame China for hacking attacks on American organisations - especially those in which sensitive blueprints are swiped - and accused the country of large-scale intellectual property theft.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration told US government agencies to list countries and other entities as targets for cyber-attack, if such action would benefit the American national interest, according to a report leaked last week. ®