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A Chinese People's Liberation Army soldier stands guard in front of 'Unit 61398', a secretive Chinese military unit, in the outskirts of Shanghai, February 19, 2013. The unit is believed to be behind a series of hacking attacks, a U.S. computer security company said.

Carlos Barria/Reuters

President Barack Obama took mounting U.S. concerns about computer hacking straight to China's President on Thursday in a sign of how seriously the United States takes the threat of cyberattacks emanating from China.

A day after meeting with U.S. corporate CEOs in the White House Situation Room about cyberthreats, Mr. Obama spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the issue, as well as North Korea's nuclear challenge.

Earlier this week, U.S. intelligence leaders said for the first time that online attacks and espionage had supplanted terrorism as the top security threats facing the United States.

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U.S. businesses are alarmed about the targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through intrusions from China.

"The international community cannot afford to tolerate such activity from any country," White House national security adviser Tom Donilon said this week.

Mr. Obama called Mr. Xi to congratulate him on his new position and both agreed on the value of regular high-level discussions. To that end, Mr. 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.

Tensions between the United States and China have erupted over a report by an American security firm, Mandiant, that said a unit of China's People's Liberation Army had stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations, mostly in the United States.

Mr. Obama has complained that industrial secrets worth billions of dollars are being stolen by hacking, and top U.S. officials have sharpened public warnings to China on the issue.

China denies the state is behind online espionage and says it is also a victim of the new form of Internet-based warfare.

With a report from AFP

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