RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — President Barack Obama told Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday that it is critical that their countries reach a “firm understanding” of how they will work together on cybersecurity, a contentious issue between the world powers.

The Chinese leader said China itself had been a victim of cyberattacks and agreed the two countries share concerns about the security issue.

Obama and Xi met for more than two hours at a 400-acre desert resort at the opening of a two-day summit, their first face-to-face talks since the Chinese leader took office in March.

Obama said it is critical that the U.S. and China develop rules for cybersecurity and arrive at a “firm understanding” of how to work together on security issues.

Although Obama said he and the Chinese leader had yet to delve fully into discussions about cybersecurity, he said advances in technology have created a need for clear protocols about what is and isn’t acceptable for governments to do.

“They’re going to have similar concerns,” Obama said of the Chinese.

Pushing back against the notion that the controversy over widespread government surveillance by the U.S. undercut his credibility to take on China over cybersecurity, Obama insisted the two issues were different. He said concerns over hacking and intellectual property theft shouldn’t be confused with the separate debate over how governments collect data to combat terrorist threats.

“That’s a conversation that I welcome,” he said.


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