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China Dismisses New Claim of U.S. Computer Breach

China on Thursday brusquely dismissed assertions in a New York Times article that Chinese hackers had infiltrated United States government computer systems that house personal information of federal employees. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the article was part of what he called an irresponsible anti-China smear campaign.

The article, first published Wednesday on the newspaper's website, said the hackers had gained access to some of the databases of the Office of Personnel Management before authorities in the United States detected the breach and thwarted the hackers from gaining further access.

It remained unclear what kind of information, if any, was compromised in the attack, which was said to have happened in March.

Asked about the article at a regular Foreign Ministry press briefing, a spokesman, Hong Lei, repeated China's longstanding position that it opposes hacking.

"This is what we say and what we have been doing," he said. "Recently, some American media and Internet security firms keep playing the card of China Internet Threat and smear China's image. They cannot produce tenable evidence. Such reports and comments are irresponsible and are not worth refuting."

Publication of the article came during a visit to China by Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, who attended the two-day Strategic and Economic Dialogue conference, a regularly scheduled exchange between the two countries.

Asked about the article at a closing news conference, Mr. Kerry said they had been unaware of the attack described in the article and did not raise it with Chinese officials, although the broader subject of cybersecurity was discussed.

"We were notified about this alleged incident minutes before coming out here," Mr. Kerry said.

He said the article was about attempted "intrusions" that were still being investigated and it did not appear that sensitive material had been compromised.

"This is in larger terms an issue of concern," he said.

A senior American official who participated in sessions with the Chinese on Thursday said the case of the hacking into the Office of Personnel Management was not raised by either side. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to talk about a delicate matter.

[Source: By Jane Perlez and Rick Gladstone, The New York Times, Beijing, 10Jul14]

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Privacy and counterintelligence
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