U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice warned China on Monday that Beijing-sponsored cyber espionage is a major stumbling block to U.S.-China relations, saying that such spying must stop.
Rice spoke in Washington, three days ahead of a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Analysts say this Friday's meetings between Xi and President Barack Obama are expected to be blunt, focusing in large part on cyber spying, the global economy and China's territorial ambitions in the South China Sea.
"This isn't a mild irritation," Rice said of numerous incidents linking Beijing to large-scale cyber theft. "It's an economic and a national security concern" that places "enormous strain on our bilateral relationship."
She told her audience at George Washington University that espionage targeting personal and corporate information "for the economic gain of businesses undermines our long-term economic cooperation."
She also said Obama will use the meeting to address U.S. concerns on Beijing's human rights record, and will insist on maintaining navigation and commerce through crowded sea lanes in disputed areas of the South China Sea.
Rice's comments on cyber security echo those of the president, who last week told U.S. business leaders that China's theft of trade secrets is an "act of aggression that we must stop."
U.S. officials have suggested imposing sanctions on China, and the president said Washington is preparing "a number of measures" aimed at showing Beijing that "this is not just a matter of us being mildly upset."
Ahead of the Chinese leader's arrival in Washington, he is holding meetings with U.S. and Chinese technology executives in the West Coast city of Seattle.