It has become a war of words as much as a cyber war as the U.S. and China trade accusations about who hacked who.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s national security advisor is calling on China to launch an investigation into the cyberattacks on the U.S. that are straining relations between the two countries.

“First, we need a recognition of the urgency and scope of this problem and the risk it poses—to international trade, to the reputation of Chinese industry and to our overall relations,” Tom Donilon said in a speech March 11.  “Second, Beijing should take serious steps to investigate and put a stop to these activities.  Finally, we need China to engage with us in a constructive direct dialogue to establish acceptable norms of behavior in cyberspace.”

Donilon’s words sparked a response from Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying today (March 12) at a press conference.

“Cyberspace needs rules and co-operation, not wars,” Hua was quoted by Chinese news outlet Xinhua. “In terms of Internet security, China is vulnerable and one of the most seriously attacked victims.”

“China has always urged the international community to build a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace and opposed turning it into a new battlefield,” she added.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi was a little more blunt during a weekend news conference, saying the accusations being leveled against China are politically motivated.

“Those reports may have caught the eye of many people, but they are built on shaky ground,” said Yang, referring to a 74-page report by American security firm Mandiant Corp. that alleged a Chinese military unit has launched thousands of hacking attacks against U.S. companies and defense contractors since 2006 at the behest of China’s government.

The Alexandria, Virginia-based security firm, which went public with the report last month, said it traced the hacking to four large networks in Shanghai, two of which serve the Pudong New Area where a 12-storey building run by Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army is located.

China has been adamant that it is not the hacker but the victim, saying it is hit with about 144,000 hacking attacks per month, many of which originate from the U.S.

Xinhua reported over the weekend that China’s national Computer Emergency Response Team tracked the majority of attacks on Chinese public and private organizations this year to American IP addresses.

“What is black is black, and what is white stays white. Anyone who tries to fabricate or piece together a sensational story to serve a political motive will not be able to blacken the name of others nor whitewash themselves,” Jiechi was quoted by the China Daily.

He said it is wrong to “turn cyberspace into another battlefield, or capitalize on virtual reality to interfere in another country’s internal affairs,” adding that there has been enough political mud-slinging.

Donilon described cyber-security as a “growing challenge” to the U.S.’s economic relationship with China.

He said more and more U.S. businesses are voicing concerns about “sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies” through cyber invasions stemming from China at an unparalleled rate.

“The international community cannot afford to tolerate such activity from any country,” Donilon said. “As the president said in the State of the Union, we will take action to protect our economy against cyber-threats.

“From the president on down, this has become a key point of concern and discussion with China at all levels of our governments. And it will continue to be. The United States will do all it must to protect our national networks, critical infrastructure, and our valuable public and private sector property.”

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U.S., China Continue to Trade Accusations on Cyberattacks

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U.S., China Continue to Trade Accusations on Cyberattacks – American National Security Advisor Calls for Constructive and Direct Dialogue

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