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China summons US ambassador over cyber espionage indictments

Protests made over accusations of trade-secrets’ theft

China summons US ambassador over cyber espionage indictments
Five Chinese military officers are accused of cyber infiltration of US-based companies.

China's foreign ministry summoned the US ambassador to condemn US cyber-crime indictments against five Chinese military officers, Reuters reported.

Zheng Zeguang, assistant foreign minister, yesterday met with US Ambassador to China, Max Baucus, to protest against the allegations that the five Chinese nationals gained access to networks at US nuclear, metal and solar companies with the aim of stealing trade secrets.

State news agency Xinhua reported that Zheng told Baucus the accusations had damaged Sino-US relations and that China would "take further action on the so-called charges".

"The Chinese government and military and its associated personnel have never conducted or participated in the theft of trade secrets over the Internet," Xinhua is quoted as saying during the meeting. He also reportedly characterised US policies on Internet security as "overbearing and hypocritical".

The Chinese Ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, yesterday delivered a separate message of protest to the US State Department.

"The accusations that the United States has made against these Chinese officials are purely fictitious and extremely absurd," Cui was quoted as saying.

US and Chinese officials have repeatedly clashed in recent years on the issue of cyber espionage, in a series of accusations and counter-claims. US lawmakers have previously voiced concerns about US firms doing business with Chinese ICT solutions companies such as ZTE and Huawei. And earlier this year, German and US media reported that documents obtained from former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showed attempts by the agency to obtain data from Huawei's China-based servers.

Xinhua cited data from China's National Computer network Emergency Response technical Team co-ordination centre (CNCERT) that claims a total of 2,077 botnet servers in the US had control of 1.18m machines in China between 19 March and 18 May. CNCERT also recorded 135 US hosts as harbouring 563 phishing pages targeting Chinese websites that led to 14,000 phishing operations. The data also listed 2,016 US-based IP addresses that the centre alleged had introduced backdoors in 1,754 Chinese websites, involving 57,000 backdoor attacks, during the same period.

Federal prosecutors in the US name the targeted companies as Alcoa Inc, Allegheny Technologies Inc, United States Steel Corp, Toshiba Corp, the US subsidiaries of SolarWorld AG, and a steel workers' union. The indictments are unlikely to lead to prosecutions as the accused are all based in China and Beijing is not expected to ship them to the US for trial, but the officers will be unable to travel to the US or any country that has an extradition treaty with the US.

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