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State Department argues against ‘cyber arms’ treaty

Kenneth Corbin | May 27, 2016
Senior State Department official says cyber is fundamentally different than any sort of conventional military or diplomatic arena, urges ongoing and multilateral development of ‘norms’ in global Internet talks.

Perhaps the most visible coup on that front came last year, when the United States and China entered into an accord that affirmed that neither country would support the theft of intellectual property for commercial gain, among other measures, including a pledge of cooperation between the two nations' law enforcement communities.

That agreement was notable not only for addressing one of the perennial complaints among U.S. businesses who have said that they are subject to more or less constant probes from Chinese entities, but it also marked the first time that Chinese authorities were willing to decouple corporate espionage from the routine intelligence gathering that countries engage in, according to Painter.

"While these commitments do not resolve all of our challenges with China on cyber issues, nevertheless, they do represent a step forward in our efforts to address one of the sharpest areas of disagreement in the U.S.-China bilateral relationship," he said.

And it's not just China. Painter rattled off a host of recent multilateral meetings among nations from various regions of the world that have produced statements affirming some of the norms like freedom of expression and curbing IP theft that the State Department has been advocating, the most recent coming earlier this month when President Obama hosted his counterparts from the Nordic countries.

"The president in almost every meeting with a foreign leader, in every summit, or when we have high-level meetings with other governments on a diplomatic level, has raised the issue of the importance of norms in cyberspace, the importance of this international security framework," Painter said.

"That's different than trying to have a cyber treaty and I think one of the concerns we have about the cyber treaty is that's often advocated by the Chinese and Russians to try to control cyber "weapons" as they say," he added. "But really they're trying to control ... information. They view information as destabilizing, and they talk about information security."


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