On the Washington Examiner.
The first ministerial meeting between China and the U.S. will take place Dec. 1-2. But don't expect U.S. officials to accuse China of violating their anti-hacking agreement.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Loretta Lynch will lead the U.S. delegation at the meeting in Washington.
"I would not characterize our first ministerial as any sort of deadline, and I think we will assess compliance with the written commitments as we go," Johnson said at a Council on Foreign Relations event on Wednesday. "But I do think that assessing compliance and assessing actions in accordance with agreements is fundamental to the agreement itself."
A Sept. 25 meeting between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping resulted in a bilateral agreement that neither country would engage in commercial espionage. Cybersecurity firms CrowdStrike and FireEye have said Chinese malware has continued to flourish in the systems of U.S. companies in spite of the agreement.
Christopher Painter, the coordinator for cyberissues at the State Department, expressed a similar sentiment at the meeting. "I think as far as whether they live up to the agreement, we're watching," Painter said. "We're going to watch carefully. We're going to look at the information. We have mechanisms in place to do that and we're going to continue to do that."
Critics have complained about the administration's lack of response to commercial espionage emanating from China, calling for sanctions to be placed on the Chinese companies that benefit from it. While Johnson said it is too soon to evaluate the status of the agreement, he also said it's not too late to take action for previous cases of espionage. "It is also the case that the book is not necessarily closed with respect to responses to various attacks that have occurred in the past or may occur in the future."
However, Johnson said he remains optimistic. "We have a baseline commitment from the Chinese government to what they regard as acceptable and unacceptable behavior," he said. "I have to believe that the Chinese government, that is anxious to be considered a world player and a world actor and a partner, would take very seriously the commitments that they make at the highest levels of their government."