US planning actions targeting Chinese hackers and spies

WASHINGTON • The Trump administration is planning to take several actions aimed at calling out China for efforts to steal intellectual secrets from American high-tech companies, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department is set to indict a number of alleged hackers it believes work for Chinese intelligence agencies and attacked US technology companies, according to the people.

The Justice Department had planned to make one or more announcements related to Chinese espionage, including the indictments, but the plans have been put on hold, according to one of the people.

Some of the expected actions include declassifying some US intelligence concerning Chinese espionage activities, according to one of the people.

The tougher steps come as the US continues to pursue a truce with China in an escalating tariff battle.

The Trump administration has been trying to negotiate a trade deal on automobiles, agricultural purchases and other issues, even while pledging to keep fighting what it says are intensive ongoing Chinese efforts to steal US intellectual property.

The latest US moves follow debates within the Trump administration about imposing sanctions on Chinese entities caught stealing US intellectual property through cyber attacks, three people familiar with the matter said.

 
 

The plan being discussed would use an Obama administration executive order that lets the US impose sanctions on individuals or entities engaging in "malicious cyber-enabled activities". But it has sparked a heated debate among administration officials, with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said to be blocking the effort.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2018, with the headline 'US planning actions targeting Chinese hackers and spies'. Print Edition | Subscribe