China to US: Stop 'groundless' hacking accusations

China to US: Stop 'groundless' hacking accusations
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China admonished the U.S. on Friday for “groundless attacks” against Beijing as U.S. officials warn of a growing cyber threat from China and weigh possible economic sanctions against the Asian superpower.

In recent days, reports have indicated the White House is preparing to levy sanctions against Chinese companies for hacking American firms. And on Thursday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the House Intelligence Committee that the country needed to bolster its cyber defenses to thwart the rising tide of cyberattackers from China.

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“We hope that the U.S. stops its groundless attacks against China, start dialogue based on a foundation of mutual respect, and jointly build a cyberspace that is peaceful, secure, open and cooperative,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said during a daily news briefing, Reuters reported.

“Maintaining cybersecurity should be a point of cooperation rather than a source of friction between both China and the United States,” he added.

The two countries are set to address the issue in two weeks during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to Washington since taking office in 2013.

Cybersecurity has been driving a major wedge between the U.S. and China in recent months.

Publicly the administration has blamed China for hacking the U.S. private sector, calling out the nation directly in its recent National Security Strategy. Privately, officials have also accused Beijing of orchestrating the massive digital assault on the Office of Personnel Management, which resulted in the theft of more than 22 million people’s sensitive data.

Experts believe the White House doesn’t want cyber tensions to derail the upcoming talks between Obama and Xi. 

China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, said Friday that the two sides should focus on creating international cyberspace norms during the state visit.

"China and the United States actually can make cyber security a point of cooperation," Yang said in an interview with the state news outlet China Daily.

“We hope China, the United States and other countries can work together to work out the rules for cybersecurity in the international arena in the spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit,” he added.