BEIJING — China does not need to steal U.S. weapons technology to modernize its military because it is capable of developing the systems on its own, China’s Defense Ministry said Thursday, denying a recent report that it had hacked into designs for more than two dozen major U.S. weapons systems.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday on a confidential assessment prepared for the Pentagon that revealed widespread electronic intrusions by China that might have compromised U.S. defense systems.
The report, produced by the U.S. Defense Science Board, catalogued intrusions into programs critical to U.S. missile defense, as well as to combat aircraft and ships. Stealing such designs, experts warned, compromises U.S. capabilities even as it helps China accelerate its military modernization at little cost.
Geng Yansheng, a spokesman for the Chinese Defense Ministry, said the report “underestimates both the Pentagon’s security capabilities to protect itself and how smart Chinese people are.”
China is “fully capable of constructing weapons and equipment to safeguard its security,” Geng said, according to a transcript of a monthly news briefing that is open only to China’s domestic media. As proof, he pointed to its new combat aircraft, its satellite navigation system and its new aircraft carrier.
The aircraft carrier he cited, however, is also an example of China acquiring existing foreign technology — in this case, a derelict Soviet hull — and using it to jump-start its program. Last month, China’s military revealed plans to build a new generation of carriers after using the Russian carrier as a training model.
The White House has said that President Obama will raise the issue of Chinese cyberattacks targeting U.S. military and business secrets at a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week.
After years of using circumspect language on the subject, often avoiding publicly singling out China by name, the Obama administration has recently escalated its warnings to Beijing as evidence mounts of widespread hacking originating from China.