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Merkel: China Must Respect 'Game Rules'

By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
The Associated Press
Monday, August 27, 2007; 1:34 PM

BEIJING -- China needs to respect the "rules of the game" while developing its economy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday during a visit to Beijing shadowed by a news report saying Chinese hackers linked to the military had infected German government computers.

The German weekly Der Spiegel reported Sunday that computers at the Chancellery and three ministries had been infected with so-called Trojans, or spy programs, from China, according to German security agencies. It said the country's domestic intelligence agency believed a group of hackers associated with China's People's Liberation Army might be behind the alleged hacking.

Merkel and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao wouldn't say whether they had discussed the report directly in hour-long talks, preferring instead to keep the focus on efforts to boost economic ties and environmental and energy cooperation.

"I saw those reports and expressed that in order to move relations forward ... we must together respect a set of game rules," Merkel told reporters.

Thanking Merkel for her "friendly" remarks, Wen said the Chinese government considered the reported hacking a "matter of grave concern."

"Hackers breaking into and sabotaging computers is a problem faced by the entire world," he said. "We are willing to maintain cooperation with the German government and take firm and effective action to prevent all hacking acts that threaten computer systems."

There was no indication whether Merkel discussed the issue in a later meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao. However, Merkel said she discussed human rights and ways of expanding relations beyond trade relations.

"I pointed out that, especially with the Olympic Games coming up, the world will be looking at China with increased scrutiny," Merkel told reporters after meeting Hu at the Great Hall of the People, the seat of China's legislature.

In other comments following her meeting with Wen, Merkel said she had tried to dispel Chinese suspicions that other countries felt threatened by its development and were trying to block that growth.

But she said China needed to respect international norms, a nod to recent scandals over tainted or poisonous Chinese exports, rampant copyright piracy, and human rights abuses by the communist regime.

"In our talks, I made clear that every country has the right to development," Merkel said.

"But at present there are a great many large countries such as China that are developing fast and there is a need to respect the rules of the game," she said.

Merkel planned to visit the former capital of Nanjing before flying to Japan on Wednesday.

In Japan, Merkel is scheduled to visit Kyoto, where the current protocol limiting greenhouse gas emissions was negotiated a decade ago _ underlining her push for a new global agreement to combat climate change once that pact expires in 2012.

Merkel, whose country holds the presidency of the Group of Eight industrialized nations, has been lobbying for the accord, which nations are to begin negotiating at U.N.-sponsored talks in December. Japan will chair the G-8 next year.

© 2007 The Associated Press