Dutch PM raises cyber espionage concerns directly with China's Xi


The subject of Chinese state-sponsored espionage made its way into discussions between the Dutch Prime Minister and China’s President in Beijing Wednesday.

During a planned visit with President Xi Jinping, Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he discussed a cyber espionage incident the Dutch nation had blamed on the Chinese state.

Chinese state-backed cyber spies gained access to a Dutch military network last year, the intelligence agency MIVD said last month, calling it part of a trend of Chinese political espionage against the Netherlands and its allies.

It was the first time the Dutch publicly attributed cyber espionage to China, as national security tensions grow between the two countries.

They are also in a confrontation over restrictions of exports of high-tech semiconductor equipment made by Dutch giant ASML to China.

Beijing routinely denies allegations of cyber espionage and says it opposes all forms of cyberattack.

US and British officials on Monday filed charges, imposed sanctions, and accused Beijing of a sweeping cyber espionage campaign that allegedly hit millions of people, including lawmakers, academics and journalists, and companies, including defense contractors.

US and British intel say the clandestine spy group, dubbed APT31, is allegedly run by China's Ministry of State Security.

The fourteen year hacking campaign was said to have compromised mass amounts of sensitive data over the years such as “economic plans, intellectual property, and trade secrets belonging to American businesses,” that potentially had been transferred back to the PRC.

"Of course we discuss all difficult topics," including cyberattacks, Rutte told reporters the talks in Beijing.

"Of course this has been very openly attributed to China by the Netherlands. It was an attack on the Dutch Ministry of Defence that our MIVD has identified and also attributed to China. So yes, of course, I discussed it."

Earlier on Wednesday, the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation announced it had also linked APT31 to an 2020-2021 espionage hacking campaign against the nation’s Parliamentary information systems.

Tensions between Beijing and Western powers over issues related to cyber espionage have been rising as Western intelligence agencies increasingly sound the alarm on Chinese state-backed hacking activity.

Chinese diplomats in Britain and the US dismissed the accusations as unwarranted, while the Chinese Embassy in London labeled them as "completely fabricated and malicious slanders."

China has also begun in recent years to call out alleged Western hacking operations.


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