China tells U.S. to stop 'groundless' hacking accusations

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U.S. Spy Chief James Clapper: China Top Suspect in Hack of U.S. Agency

China reacted angrily on Friday following a call by America's top intelligence official for cyber security against China to be stepped up, and said the United States should stop "groundless accusations".

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the United States must beef up cyber security against Chinese hackers targeting a range of U.S. interests to raise the cost toChina of engaging in such activities.

Clapper's testimony adds pressure on Beijing over its conduct in cyberspace weeks before President Xi Jinping visits the United States.

China routinely denies any involvement in hacking and says it is also a victim.

"Maintaining cyber security should be a point of cooperation rather than a source of friction between both China and the United States," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.

"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."

The Obama administration is considering targeted sanctions against Chinese individuals and companies for cyber attacks against U.S. commercial targets, several U.S. officials have said.

See photos from a federal data hack earlier this year:

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China tells U.S. to stop 'groundless' hacking accusations
Katherine Archuleta, director of the Office of Personnel Management, listens during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill June 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. Witnesses testified about the hacking of Office of Personnel Management data. (Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
From left Katherine Archuleta, director of the Office of Personnel Management, US Chief Information Officer Tony Scott, Assistant Homeland Security Secretary for National Protection and Programs Andy Ozment, and McFarland, inspector general of the Office of Personnel Management, are sworn in during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill June 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. Witnesses testified about the hacking of Office of Personnel Management data. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 23 - Katherine Archuleta, director, Office of Personnel Management, testifies during a Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing to review data security and information technology spending at the Office of Personal Management on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Katherine Archuleta, director of Office of Personnel Management, arrives for a Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing to review information technology spending and data security at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, on Capitol Hill, June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. FBI Director James Comey recently told Senators in a closed-door meeting that the personal data of an estimated 18 million current and former federal employees were affected by a recent cyber breach at the Office of Personnel Management. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest answers questions on the massive cyber-attack on the personal data of government employees June 5, 2015 during the daily briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The US government on Thursday admitted hackers accessed the personal data of at least four million current and former federal employees, in a vast cyber-attack suspected to have originated in China. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest answers questions on the massive cyber-attack on the personal data of government employees June 5, 2015 during the daily briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The US government on Thursday admitted hackers accessed the personal data of at least four million current and former federal employees, in a vast cyber-attack suspected to have originated in China. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest answers questions on the massive cyber-attack on the personal data of government employees June 5, 2015 during the daily briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The US government on Thursday admitted hackers accessed the personal data of at least four million current and former federal employees, in a vast cyber-attack suspected to have originated in China. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 05: The Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building that houses the Office of Personnel Management headquarters is shown June 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. U.S. investigators have said that at least four million current and former federal employees might have had their personal information stolen by Chinese hackers. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 05: The entrance to the Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building that houses the Office of Personnel Management headquarters is shown June 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. U.S. investigators have said that at least four million current and former federal employees might have had their personal information stolen by Chinese hackers. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 05: The Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building that houses the Office of Personnel Management headquarters is shown June 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. U.S. investigators have said that at least four million current and former federal employees might have had their personal information stolen by Chinese hackers. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
The American flag is reflected in a window at the Theodore Roosevelt Building, headquarters of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, June 5, 2015. The disclosure by U.S. officials that Chinese hackers stole records of as many as 4 million government workers is now being linked to the thefts of personal information from health-care companies. The hackers, thought to have links to the Chinese government, got into the OPM computer system late last year, according to one U.S. official. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Vehicles drive past the Theodore Roosevelt Building, headquarters of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, June 5, 2015. The disclosure by U.S. officials that Chinese hackers stole records of as many as 4 million government workers is now being linked to the thefts of personal information from health-care companies. The hackers, thought to have links to the Chinese government, got into the OPM computer system late last year, according to one U.S. official. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Chinese hackers were also implicated in extensive hacking of the U.S. government's personnel office disclosed this year.

China's top diplomat took a softer line in an interview published on Friday in the state-runChina Daily, saying China and the United States can cooperate and work with other countries on global cyber security rules in a spirit of respect.

"China and the United States actually can make cyber security a point of cooperation," State Councilor Yang Jiechi said in the interview, which focused on Xi's state visit to America.

"We hope China, the United States and other countries could work together to work out the rules for cyber security in the international arena in the spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit," said Yang, who outranks the foreign minister.

Yang noted, as Chinese officials regularly do, that China was itself a hacking victim and said suspected cases should be investigated and handled "on a solid, factual basis".

His comments were not a direct reaction to Clapper's.

On another point of friction between the United States and China - territorial disputes in the South China Sea - Yang said he hoped the United States would stay on the sidelines because it was not part of the disputes.

He added, though: "It is important for both countries to stay in close touch even if they have different perceptions and views."

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Additional reporting by John Ruwitch in Shanghai; Writing byBen Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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