Rules Of Engagement For Cyberwarfare Is Focus Of US, China Negotiations

Rules Of Engagement For Cyberwarfare Is Focus Of US, China Negotiations
Barack Obama Marc Nozell / Flickr CC BY 2.0

The United States and China are said to be in talks to pen the first ever rules of conduct involving the future of cyberwarfare. According to insiders who have spoken with The New York Times, U.S. has proposed rules of conduct to China where each country will handle its cyber weapons as a defense and not an offense or provocation. Each country should not be the first one to use cyberweapons to cripple other country’s infrastructure during peacetime, the unnamed officials told The New York Times.


The sources explained further that the proposal involved a commitment for each country to fully embrace the code of conduct already adopted by a committee at the United Nations. UN’s document on principles for cyberspace entails that no country shall “intentionally damages critical infrastructure or otherwise impairs the use and operation of critical infrastructure to provide services to the public.”

There had been a foreseen possibility that the internet might be weaponized in the future with the world powers – U.S., China, Iran and Russia – all scrambling to develop their cyber weapons. Future wars might not actually have forces fighting on the grounds but would rather involve combat with cyber weapons.

If China agrees with the proposal and both country indeed sign the rules of engagement “it would be the first time that cyber is treated as a military capability that needs to be governed as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are,” Vikram Singh, vice president for international security at the Center for American Progress, told The New York Times. The proposal is significant as it reflects U.S.’ willingness to address the issue during peacetime, Singh explained.

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Speaking at the Business Roundtable Headquarters, President Barack Obama said his administration will do everything it can to stop China and other state and non state entities from getting state secrets, engaging directly in industrial espionage and stealing trade secrets or stealing proprietary information from companies.

“And we are preparing a number of measures that will indicate to the Chinese that this is not just a matter of us being mildly upset, but is something that will put significant strains on the bilateral relationship if not resolved, and that we are prepared to some countervailing actions in order to get their attention,” Mr. Obama said.

“And if we wanted to go on offense, a whole bunch of countries would have some significant problems. And we don’t want to see the Internet weaponized in that way.  That requires I think some tough negotiations,” the president further explained.

Mr. Obama recognized that China has risen to be one of the largest economies in the world from being a third-world country. He, however, wants to warn his Chinese counterparts that “with power comes responsibility.”

“You can’t act as if you are a third-world country and pursue protectionist policies, or engage in dumping, or not protect intellectual property at a time when we’re now — when you’re now the second and, eventually, probably the first-largest economy in the world,” Mr. Obama said.

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