Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday called for global condemnation for those who carry out cyber attacks as China sought to contain tension with the United States over online censorship and hacking.
In excerpts of a speech expected to address Google Inc.'s concerns about China as well as global Internet freedom, Clinton said countries or individuals that engage in cyber attacks should face consequences and international condemnation.
In an interconnected world, an attack on one nation's networks can be an attack on all, Clinton said in excerpts released ahead of a speech to be delivered in Washington at 9:30 EDT (1430 GMT).
By reinforcing that message, we can create norms of behavior among states and encourage respect for the global networked commons.
In Beijing, comments by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei on Thursday appeared to be part of an effort to downplay disputes and avoid further straining ties with Washington. Relations are already troubled by quarrels over trade, Taiwan and human rights.
Clinton's speech on Internet freedom could be seen in Beijing as throwing down a gauntlet, a week after search engine giant Google Inc said it had been the target of sophisticated cyber-spying from China.
The Google incident should not be linked to bilateral relations, otherwise that would be over-interpreting it, the official Xinhua news agency quoted He as telling Chinese reporters.
In the year that Obama has been in office, the development of China-U.S. relations has been basically stable, He added.
He seemed to be seeking to play down potential fallout from the Google dispute, which could compound tensions with Washington as Congress heads into an election year.
Google, the world's top search engine, said it may shut its Chinese-language google.cn website and offices in China after a cyber attack originating from China that also targeted others.
Google said it no longer wanted to censor its Chinese Google.cn site and wanted to talk with Beijing about offering a legal, unfiltered Chinese site.
Searches for sensitive topics on Google.cn are still largely being censored.
Many in China see Google's ultimatum as a business tactic because its market share trails the popular Chinese search site Baidu. Despite extensive public debate of the Google issue in China, hacking has been rarely mentioned in official media.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked in China.
(Additional reporting by John Poirier; Chris Buckley, Lucy Hornby and Huang Yan in BEIJING and Argin Chang in TAIPEI; Writing by Paul Eckert; Editing by Philip Barbara)