China denies Pentagon cyber-attack claims

China has denied claims from the US that it is using espionage to acquire technologies to fuel its fast-paced military modernisation programme.

The Telegraph: The Pentagon on Monday for the first time accused Beijing of trying to break into US defence computer networks.

In its 83-page annual report to Congress on Chinese military developments, the Pentagon also cited progress in Beijing’s effort to develop advanced-technology stealth aircraft and build an aircraft carrier fleet to project power further offshore.

The report said China’s cyber snooping was a “serious concern” that pointed to an even greater threat because the “skills required for these intrusions are similar to those necessary to conduct computer network attacks.”

“The US government continued to be targeted for (cyber) intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military,” it said, adding the main purpose of the hacking was to gain information to benefit defence industries, military planners and government leaders.

A spokesman said it was the first time the annual Pentagon report had cited Beijing for targeting US defence networks.

The auccastions were dismissed as “irresponsible and harmful to the mutual trust between the sides”, according to Senior Col Wang Xinjun, a People’s Liberation Army researcher.

“The Chinese government and armed forces have never sanctioned hacking activities,” Senior Col Wang told Xinhua news.

The annual China report, which Congress began requesting in 2000, comes amid ongoing tensions in the region due to China’s military assertiveness and expansive claims of sovereignty over disputed islands and shoals. Beijing has ongoing territorial disputes with the Philippines, Japan and other neighbours.

Beijing’s publicly announced defence spending has grown at an inflation-adjusted pace of nearly 10 per cent annually over the past decade, but Helvey said China’s actual outlays were thought to be higher.

China announced a 10.7 per cent increase in military spending to $114 billion in March, the Pentagon report said. Publicly announced defence spending for 2012 was $106 billion, but actual pending for 2012 could range between $135 billion and $215 billion, it said. US defence spending is more than double that, at more than $500 billion.

The report highlighted China’s continuing efforts to gain access to sophisticated military technology to fuel its modernisation programme. It cited a laundry list of methods, including “state-sponsored industrial and technical espionage to increase the level of technologies and expertise available to support military research, development and acquisition.”

“China continues to engage in activities designed to support military procurement and modernisation,” the report said. “These include economic espionage, theft of trade secrets, export control violations, and technology transfer.”

Dean Cheng, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, said he was surprised by the number of cases of human espionage – as opposed to just cyber prying – cited in the report.

“This is a PLA that is extensively, comprehensively modernising … they’re pushing across the board,” Mr Cheng said. “China is also comprehensively engaging in espionage.”