(Reuters) – China’s suggested on Thursday that the United States had fabricated evidence to underpin accusations of cyber attacks and had incited China’s neighbors to “stir up trouble” in disputed waters.
The strongly-worded comments by the defense ministry come as relations between the world’s two largest economies are increasingly strained by a row over cyberespionage. The United States last week accused five Chinese military officers of hacking into U.S. companies to steal trade secrets.
Asked about proof behind the U.S. allegations, ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said it would be easy for the United States to fabricate evidence.
“In the field of Internet technology and infrastructure, the U.S. is blessed with an advantage, so fabricating some so-called ‘evidence’ is certainly no hardship,” spokesman Geng Yansheng told a briefing, according to a statement on the ministry’s website.
Geng compared U.S. evidence for Chinese cyberspying to allegations produced by Washington in 2003, that Baghdad held weapons of mass destruction, to justify the invasion of Iraq. Those allegations proved to be unfounded.
“The international community has not seen the U.S.’s so-called proof, they’ve only seen the massive conflict and hardship endured by the people of Iraq,” he said.
Geng also said President Barack Obama’s “pivot” of military assets to Asia was to blame for “stirring up new troubles” in the South China and East China seas.
“After the U.S. took up the Asia rebalancing strategy, some countries took advantage of its power to behave recklessly, continuously stirring up new troubles in territorial disputes,” he said.
Territorial rows have strained several of China’s key diplomatic relationships, including those with Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan.
Japan said this week that Chinese aircraft had come within a few dozen meters of its warplanes in the East China Sea where both countries claim a string of uninhabited islands administered by Tokyo. Each side accused the other of dangerous behavior.
Geng said Japanese aircraft had followed Chinese air force patrols at a close distance for long periods of time on several occasions since Beijing put in place an air defense zone last year that includes the disputed islands.
Ties with Vietnam frayed this month over an oil rig China deployed to disputed waters in the South China Sea. That sparked anti-Chinese rioting in Vietnam and confrontations between vessels from the two countries.
“Where this issue is concerned, there is absolutely no room for bargaining and no allowance for provocative behavior,” Geng said.
(Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Ron Popeski)