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Washington — Skeptical of Chinese assurances on cyberspying, President Barack Obama on Friday laid out a fresh threat of sanctions for economic espionage emanating from China, even as he and President Xi Jinping pledged their countries would not conduct or support such hacking.

“The question now is: Are words followed by action?” Obama said, standing alongside Xi at a White House news conference.

Obama’s wariness underscored deep U.S. concerns about what officials say is China’s massive cyber campaign to steal trade secrets and intellectual property from American companies. While China has publicly denied being behind such activities, U.S. officials say their counterparts in Beijing have begun to take the matter more seriously, as well as the potential impact on ties with Washington.

“Confrontation and friction are not the right choice for both sides,” Xi said, speaking through an interpreter.

The spying tensions cast a shadow over Xi’s state visit to Washington, a grand affair complete with a formal welcome ceremony and a black-tie dinner. Obama faced criticism from some Republicans for honoring China with a state visit given the cyber concerns, as well as U.S. worries about Beijing’s human rights abuses and assertive posture in territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.

While the latter issues were discussed during Obama and Xi’s lengthy talks, no discernable progress was made.

Xi said the Chinese have “the right to uphold our own sovereignty” in the South China Sea, where Beijing has alarmed its neighbors with a major campaign of artificial island-building. China has reclaimed about 3,000 acres of land in the past year-and-a-half by dredging sand from the ocean bed.

On human rights, long a divisive issue between the U.S. and China, Xi made no commitments, saying only that countries must have the right “to choose their own development independently.”

Obama and Xi did herald progress on climate change, one of the few areas of bilateral cooperation that has proceeded smoothly in recent months, largely because Beijing has struggled to contain heavy air, water and soil pollution in the country.

Lawmaker grabs pope’s glass

Pope Francis wasn’t the only person to drink from the glass of water he used during his speech to Congress. An enterprising Democratic congressman from Philadelphia also took a sip.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, a Roman Catholic, told the Philadelphia Daily News that as the pope left the chamber Thursday, the lawmaker headed to the lectern to grab Francis’ drinking glass.

Brady said he took it to his office and had a drink. So did his wife, Debra, and two staffers, he said.

The congressman said he also invited fellow Catholic and Democrat U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania into his office. Casey, his wife and his mother dipped their fingers into the water, Brady said.

Brady said he used a bottle to save the rest for his four grandchildren and his great-granddaughter, saying he would bless them with it.

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