China has accused the United States of “hypocrisy and double standards” after five of its military officials were accused of hacking into companies’ computer systems.
The US ambassador to China, Max Baucus, has been summoned over the indictment, which accuses the men of economic espionage and the theft of trade secrets.
A joint cyber security task force set up by the two countries has also been suspended, as the fallout from the accusations grows.
US Attorney General Eric Holder said the alleged theft of sensitive information “demands an aggressive response” and described the charges as a “groundbreaking” step in addressing the threat of cyber spying.
However, Geng Yansheng, a Chinese defence spokesman, said the steps taken by the United States had “severely damaged the mutual trust” between the two countries.
“From Wikileaks to the Snowden incident, America’s hypocrisy and double standards on issues of cyber security are abundantly clear,” he said.
“The Chinese military is a severe victim of America’s behaviour.
“According to statistics, the servers used by the Chinese military have been widely attacked by foreigners and according to the IP addresses, a significant number of them come from America.”
He added: “America’s behaviour runs counter to its promise to devote time to construct a healthy stable and reliable military relationship. It has severely damaged the mutual trust.”
Earlier, China’s foreign ministry issued a strongly-worded rebuttal, accusing the US of using “deliberately fabricated facts”.
“The US accusation against Chinese personnel is purely ungrounded with ulterior motives,” spokesman Qin Gang added.
The United States believes China stole emails and other communications that could have helped Chinese firms learn the inner workings of American companies.
FBI Director James Comey said: “For too long, the Chinese government has blatantly sought to use cyber espionage to obtain economic advantage for its state-owned industries.”
Mr Holder added: “This case should serve as a wake-up call to the seriousness of the ongoing cyber threat.”
The five men – Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu and Gu Chunhui – have each been indicted on 31 counts, all of which carry penalties of up to 15 years in prison.
Prosecutors say the officers belonged to a unit of the People’s Liberation Army, which it is claimed operates from ananonymous-looking Shanghai tower block.
20 May 2014 | 10:43 am – Source: orange.co.uk