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Obama, Chinese president talk North Korea, cybersecurity at summit

Evan Vucci / AP

President Barack Obama walks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Annenberg Retreat of the Sunnylands estate Saturday, June 8, 2013, in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping finished a second round of talks Saturday, bringing to a close a two-day summit said to have been a warm and laid-back counterpoint to the oftentimes frigid and tense relationship between the two global superpowers.

North Korea and cybersecurity were among the key issues discussed in a series of wide-ranging and largely informal conversations at the Sunnylands desert retreat near Palm Springs, Calif.


Obama and Xi did not make statements to the press after their talks wrapped up at noon Saturday, but the Chinese leader said Friday that he and Obama “reached important consensus on these issues,” potentially setting the stage for a stronger alliance between the two nations after nearly a half-century of mutual mistrust.

The two leaders reportedly found common ground on North Korea, concurring that that nation’s purported nuclear program represents a threat to both the Asia-Pacific region and the United States -- and must be dismantled.

“They agreed that North Korea has to denuclearize, that neither country will accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state and that we would work together to deepen cooperation and dialogue to achieve denuclearization,” White House national security adviser Tom Donilon told reporters Saturday.


Although neither country has much to gain from rookie leader Kim Jong Un’s saber-rattling, China has historically close ties with Pyongyang. But Xi has indicated a growing frustration with North Korea’s belligerent behavior.

“China has taken a number of steps to send a clear message to North Korea,” Donilon said Saturday. Obama and Xi signaled their intention to see “enhanced cooperation” between the U.S. and China on the nuclear issue, he added.

Cybersecurity was high on the agenda over the course of the summit. Obama pressed Xi on allegations that Chinese hackers have targeted U.S. military secrets, industrial data and intellectual property – even as the White House faces controversy over the federal government’s reported surveillance of emails and phone records.

Obama reportedly told Xi that if U.S. cybersecurity concerns are not sufficiently addressed, it “was going to be a very difficult problem in the economic relationship and was going to be an inhibitor to the relationship really reaching its full potential,” Donilon told reporters at the conclusion of Saturday’s talks.

Chinese officials, meanwhile, said the Chinese government opposed all manner of cyber attacks and claimed no responsibility for prior attacks against the U.S.

“Cybersecurity should not become the root cause of mutual suspicion and frictions between our two countries. Rather, it should be a new bright spot in our cooperation,” said Yang Jiechi, Xi’s senior policy advisor, according to The Associated Press.

Although no concrete policy proposals about cybersecurity emerged from the talks, Obama and Xi made progress on the issue of climate change, announcing that the U.S. and China will team up to reduce hydroflurocarbons, a greenhouse gas commonly used in household appliances and industrial machinery.

Obama and Xi met face-to-face for roughly eight hours over the course of two days, an unusually lengthy amount of time for both world leaders, interrupted only for a dinner prepared by celebrity chef Bobby Flay and a morning ramble through the gardens of Sunnylands, a 200-acre estate built by the late billionaire Walter Annenberg.

During their stroll Saturday, Obama and Xi paused to sit on a wooden park bench – carved from Redwoods native to California – presented to Xi as a gift. The bench was inscribed with the location and date of their good-natured meeting.

Before saying goodbye, Obama had tea with Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan.

NBC News' Matthew DeLuca and M. Alex Johnson, and The Associated Press, contributed to this report.

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