China hits back at Pentagon report on spy claims

China hits back at Pentagon report on spy claims

Summary: Annual report by Pentagon alleges that China exploiting U.S. technology to expand reach in Asia-Pacific, and also conducting cyberespionage and offensive operations, but China says its military development has been "unjustly criticized".

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The U.S. Department of Defense states that China has exploited Western technology and is conducting aggressive cyberespionage, but China maintains that its military development is "normal and justified".

An annual report the Pentagon wrote to the U.S. Congress on Friday, stated that Beijing aimed to take advantage of "mostly U.S" defense-related technologies in the private sector to modernize the country's armed forces and extend China's reach in the Asia-Pacific region. Beijing also had a goal of using "legally and illegally acquired dual-use and military-related technologies to its advantage", the report said.

The Asian giant was also blamed for "many" cyberintrusions worldwide in the past year, targeting U.S. government and commercial networks, including companies directly supporting "US defense programs". Chinese state actors had also been the "world's most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage", the report warned, predicting that these spying efforts will continue.

In a press briefing on the same day, Dave Helvey, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, also told reporters that China's engagement in cyberactivity focused on computer network exploitation is a "concern", and that Beijing is "looking at ways to use cyber for offensive operations".

Strong opposition to report from China
China, however, expressed "firm opposition" to the Pentagon report.

According to Xinhua news site on Saturday, Hong Lei, a foreign minister spokesperson, said that "China's justified and normal military development" had been "unjustly criticized". He added that the development of China's military force is concerned only with safeguarding China's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and no other country or specific target is involved.

Hong also demanded that the U.S. should "respect facts, change its mindset and stop its wrongdoing in issuing similar reports year after year", and the U.S "should do more to promote China-U.S. military relations and mutual trust and cooperation, not vice versa".

Earlier this month, the defense ministers of both U.S. and China pledged to cooperate further to battle cyberthreats and avoid miscalculations that can lead to cyber conflicts between both nations.

However, conflicts between both countries are not new.

A report by the U.S. State and Defense Department last month, alleged that China is stealing U.S. military and civilian space technology to disrupt the latter's access to intelligence, navigation and communication satellites, and make it harder for them to develop weapons and communications systems. The U.S. National Security Agency's (NSA) director, Keith Alexander, also said that China is responsible for last year's cyberattacks against RSA, confirming earlier speculation that the breach was linked to the Asian giant.

Topics: Networking, Government, Security, China, IT Employment

Ellyne Phneah

About Ellyne Phneah

Elly grew up on the adrenaline of crime fiction and it spurred her interest in cybercrime, privacy and the terror on the dark side of IT. At ZDNet Asia, she has made it her mission to warn readers of upcoming security threats, while also covering other tech issues.

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