China's Foreign Ministry has summoned the US ambassador after charges against five Chinese military officers accused of hacking into American companies to steal trade secrets. Beijing denies involvement in cyberspying.
Chinese state media on Tuesday said the Beijing had summoned the US Ambassador to China, Max Baucus, to formally complain about the charges.
The Xinhua news agency said Assistant Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang had "lodged a solemn representation" with Washington to drop the charges. Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry countered with allegations of its own against Washington.
"China is a victim of severe US cybertheft, wiretapping and surveillance activities," said ministry spokesman Qin Gang.
A US grand jury filed charges against the five Chinese military officers on Monday, alleging they had stolen secrets from companies in the nuclear power, metals and solar products industries. It was alleged that the aim was to benefit Chinese state-owned companies.
Spokesman Qin said the charges were "purely fictitious, extremely absurd." He added that Beijing was suspending activities of the Sino-US Cyber Working Group, because the US had displayed a "lack of sincerity."
US Attorney General Eric Holder said the alleged victims of the cyber attacks were Alcoa World Alumina, Westinghouse Electric Company, Allegheny Technologies, US Steel Corporation, United Steelworkers Union, and SolarWorld.
Holder said it was the first time that the US had prosecuted known state actors over cyber-espionage. US officials, who have in the past accused China-based hackers of spying on military targets, said the specific instances of hacking had led to job losses in the steel and solar industries, among others. The spying allegedly took place between 2006 and 2014.
Each of the five officers - Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu and Gu Chunhui - was charged with 31 counts, each carrying a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. The defendants, based in Shanghai, were said to belong to Unit 61398 of the People's Liberation Army.
rc/crh (AP, dpa, Reuters)