The U.S. and China will hold high-level talks on how to set guidelines for conduct in cyberspace, The New York Times is reporting.

The talks, which are slated to start this July, come amid a series of charges by American officials that hackers backed by the Chinese military have stolen business blueprints from U.S. financial, defense and energy companies as part of a continuing campaign.

"It is a serious issue that cannot simply be swatted away with talking points," an unnamed senior U.S. official told the Times, who said the meetings would focus mostly on the alleged theft of secrets from American companies. "Our concerns are not limited to that, but that's what needs urgent attention."

The talks will follow a meeting this week between President Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping at which the leaders are expected to discuss cyber threats. On Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that shielding the nation from cyberattacks is a top priority.

"You know, these attacks can paralyze an electric grid or a banking system, knock out computers on ships or weapons systems, and you never fire a shot," Hagel told troops in Honolulu. "This is a very difficult, but real and dangerous threat."

For their part, the Chinese have denied the allegations and say their nation is the target of cyberattacks rather than the instigator. "We have stated time and again China's position on the issue of cyber security," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters on Friday. "We stand for even-tempered discussions between China and the U.S. on this issue to make it a new highlight of bilateral cooperation and mutual trust so that we could jointly tackle cyber threats and uphold a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace."