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Obama, China's Xi discuss cyber security dispute in phone call

President Barack Obama meets with then-Vice President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China in the Oval Office of the White House, on Feb. 14, 2012Martin H. Simon / EPA file

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama stressed the importance of addressing cyber security threats on Thursday in a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping that came amid rising U.S. concern about hacking attacks emanating from China.

Obama called Xi to congratulate him on his new position and both agreed on the value of regular high-level discussions. To that end, Obama noted that U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will visit China next week to be followed in coming weeks by Secretary of State John Kerry, a White House statement said.

Obama welcomed China's commitment to G-20 nations to move toward a more flexible currency exchange rate. The United States has long sought to persuade China to allow its currency to become more flexible and thus improve the ability to U.S. exporters to compete in the Chinese market.

With the United States growing increasingly alarmed about cyber hacking intrusions emanating from China, Obama "highlighted the importance of addressing cyber security threats, which represent a shared challenge," the White House said.

The president and his top security advisers met with chief executives from 13 companies in the White House Situation Room Wednesday to talk about how the government and private sector could improve cyber security, including the need for legislation.

The White House has elevated the issue after efforts to improve U.S. cyber defenses through new laws failed in Congress last year.