China says charges that five of its military officers have been engaging in cyber espionage are completely "made up."
China's foreign ministry on Monday called on the U.S. to immediately withdraw its charges, saying they will only stand to damage U.S.-China relations.
In the most immediate sign that they will, Beijing has already said they are suspending the activities of the China-U.S. Cyber Working Group, an intiative agreed on by both countries just one month ago.
Earlier on Monday,.. U.S. prosecutors charged five Chinese military officers of stealing trade secrets from five companies.
It's the first time the U.S. has filed such criminal charges against a foreign state.
"What I think distinguishes this case is that we have a state-sponsored entity, state-sponsored individuals using intelligence tools to gain commercial advantage. That is what makes this case different."
The accused officers belong to Unit 61398 of the People's Liberation Army, a unit long believed to be staffed by thousands of Chinese "cyber-troops."
China denies any involvement, which doesn't come as a surprise to experts.
"The Chinese basically have two responses. One is, 'we're not spying on you. We don't hack you.' And the second one is, in fact, 'You guys are the biggest hacking empire in the world. We've seen through the Snowden revelations that you are constantly hacking into other countries' networks. You are the biggest hypocrites and we are the biggest victims.'
The landmark case is expected to pave the way for more indictments down the road, and shows that the U.S. is serious about holding foreign governments accountable for cyberattacks.
Washington estimates cyber espionage costs the U.S. economy as much as 100 billion U.S. dollars a year.
Yoo Li-an, Arirang News.