Talks between China and the United States on cyber security, overshadowed by revelations of U.S. electronic surveillance by former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, have gone well, state media said on Wednesday, with both sides pledging to improve cooperation.
Cyber security is one of the main topics for high-level talks this week between the world's two largest economies, as both countries trade accusations about hacking attacks on each other.
Snowden's revelations of American electronic surveillance around the world have given China an argument to counter U.S. complaints that it steals private intellectual property (IP) from U.S. companies and research centers.
But China's official Xinhua news agency implied that the talks, on the sidelines of a strategic security dialogue on Monday and Tuesday, had made progress.
"The two sides held candid in-depth discussions on cyber security, including the mechanism of a bilateral cyber working group, international cyberspace rules, and measures to boost dialogue and cooperation on cyber security," Xinhua said.
Both sides, it said, agreed to improve the group's operations so it could "play a positive role in enhancing mutual trust, reducing mutual suspicion, managing disputes and expanding cooperation", it added.
"The two sides agreed to hold an informal meeting at an appropriate time before the next strategic security dialogue."
The talks follow the positive tone struck by President Barack Obama and new Chinese President Xi Jinping at a summit last month in California. Nevertheless, Obama demanded Chinese action to halt what he called "out of bounds" cyber spying.
Chinese suspicion of U.S. intentions runs deep.
The China Daily reported on Wednesday that in the first five months of this year about one-third of hacking attacks on Chinese computers appeared to originate from the United States.
In addition, a total of 249 Chinese government and academic websites were hacked from January to May, 54 of which were apparently targeted by U.S.-based Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, the English-language daily said.
"It's hard to say from the data whether these threats were made solely for political reasons, but Chinese government websites were apparently targeted more," Du Yuejin from the National Computer Emergency Response Team and Coordination Centre of China told the newspaper.
China has consistently denied hacking allegations leveled at it by the United States.
China's stance seems to be stiffened by Snowden's revelations of widespread surveillance by the National Security Agency and his assertion that the agency hacked into critical network infrastructure at universities in China and Hong Kong.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ron Popeski)