China has denied fresh US claims it is sponsoring cyber-attacks and said the countries should cooperate against the global threat of computer crime.
The accusations in the latest Pentagon report on the Chinese military are "irresponsible and harmful to the mutual trust between the sides, Senior Col. Wang Xinjun, a People's Liberation Army researcher, said on the official Xinhua News Agency.
"The Chinese government and armed forces have never sanctioned hacking activities," saidCol. Wang, who is based at the Academy of Military Sciences in Beijing, one of the PLA's main think tanks. The military frequently uses such academics as alternative spokesmen.
The annual Pentagon report included for the first time the accusation that at least some attacks on US government and other computer systems appeared to be "attributable directly" to the Chinese government and military. It said China is using its cyber capabilities to collect intelligence against US diplomatic, economic and defence programs, and is developing the skills needed to conduct cyber-warfare.
The new wording in the report continues an escalating effort by US officials to call out the Chinese on the cyber-attacks and to press for a more open dialogue with Beijing on the problem.
China's Foreign Ministry repeated that it opposes cyber-attacks as well as "all groundless accusations and hyping" that could harm prospects for cooperation.
"We are willing to hold even-tempered and constructive dialogue with the U.S." about cybercrime, a spokesman said.
The issue was highlighted in February with the issuing of a report by cyber-security firm Mandiant that claimed to have traced several years of cyber-attacks against 140 mostly American companies to a Chinese military unit in Shanghai. Mandiant executives say attacks originating in China have continued since then, with the exception of those from Shanghai-based Unit 61398 that had been highlighted in its earlier report.
China says it is impossible to tell the true origin of cyber-attacks, and accuses hostile forces of blaming it out of prejudice or a desire to put Beijing on the defensive.