Skip to main content

Cyberattacks and North Korea top issues for talks between Obama and Xi

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
June 7, 2013 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama and Xi are meeting at an estate outside Los Angeles
  • The setting is less formal than traditional summits between top leaders
  • Observers say it is a chance to set the agenda for future U.S.-Chinese relations
  • Cybersecurity and North Korea are seen as the key issues

(CNN) -- The leaders of the world's arguably two most powerful nations are due to meet Friday in southern California. President Barack Obama of the United States and President Xi Jinping of China will hold talks that could shape relations between Washington and Beijing for years to come.

"This is an attempt to set out the ground rules for how our two countries will work together in the 21st century," said Kurt Campbell, who recently served as U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Officials in Beijing are also trumpeting the potential importance of the event, the first time the two leaders have met in person since Xi became China's paramount leader.

The meeting is of "profound historic and strategic significance," Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said Thursday.

The setting of the meeting, in the Sunnylands estate outside Los Angeles, is unusually informal and a far cry from the elaborately choreographed summits typically held between Chinese and American leaders.

Who is China's new leader?
First lady skipping China summit
Most important relationship in the world
What will Obama, Xi discuss?

"This is the first time in 50 years that leaders will sit down, somewhat unscripted, to have a real conversation about our relationship," Campbell said in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour. "It's long overdue and important."

Hacking allegations

The issues of cybersecurity and North Korea are expected to top the agenda.

The United States has recently become more vocal about linking cyberattacks on American businesses and government agencies to Chinese authorities. The attacks allegedly to involve attempts to steal secret military and corporate technology and information.

Beijing has repeatedly denied the accusations, saying that hacking is a global problem, of which China is also a victim. But the chorus of voices arguing that the Chinese stance is untenable is growing.

"In the past, rogue behavior such as cybertheft may have provided a shortcut to greatness," the editorial board of the Washington Post wrote this week. "But no longer. If China fails to evolve toward more responsible behavior both abroad and at home, a backlash that is already forming in the United States and among its neighbors will swell."

Some observers, however, have noted that Obama will have to raise cybersecurity and spying issues with Xi against the unflattering backdrop of recent reports alleging widespread surveillance of phone and Internet data by U.S. intelligence agencies.

North Korea

The two leaders may make progress on the North Korea question, according to Campbell.

"I think the Chinese have just about had it with North Korea," he said. "They recognize that the steps that they have taken -- nuclear provocations -- are creating the context for more military activities on the part of the United States and other countries that ultimately are not in China's best strategic interests."

Tensions spiked on the Korean Peninsula in March and April as the North unleashed a torrent of dramatic threats against the United States and South Korea. The menacing rhetoric came amid U.S-South Korean military drills and after the United Nations had stepped up sanctions on Pyongyang in response to the latest North Korean nuclear test in February.

The U.S. officials called on China, North Korea's key ally, to rein in the provocative behavior of Kim Jong Un's regime.

The situation in the region has become calmer in recent weeks. The clearest sign of a possible thaw in relations came Thursday when North and South Korea agreed to hold talks about reopening their shared industrial complex that Pyongyang shut down in April.

OPINION: What Obama should tell China's Xi about North Korea

Previous meeting

Friday isn't the first time Obama and Xi have met. The two leaders held talks in Washington last year, while Xi still held the title of vice president.

During that visit, in addition to the more formal engagements, the Chinese leader visited a small town in Iowa, where he had stayed in the 1980s, when he was a provincial official.

He also took in a Lakers game in Los Angeles.

READ: Can Obama, Xi Break summit stalemate?

OPINION: 'AmeriChina' looking for trust at the top

Rights group: Obama must turn up the heat on Tibet

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0948 GMT (1748 HKT)
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0212 GMT (1012 HKT)
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1054 GMT (1854 HKT)
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1431 GMT (2231 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT