WASHINGTON - China's defense minister denied Monday that his country was the source of cyber-attacks directed at the U.S., contradicting recent assertions by the Pentagon.
Asked at a joint news conference with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to respond to the claims, Gen. Liang Guanglie said, "I can hardly agree with the proposition that cyber-attacks are directed at the United States from China."
U.S. officials have warned repeatedly that computer espionage, in some cases authorized at the highest levels of the Chinese government, threatens U.S. economic and national security.
Liang said that during their talk Monday afternoon, Panetta "had agreed with my point that we cannot attribute all of the cyber-attacks to China."
The general's weeklong visit to the U.S. is the first by a Chinese defense minister in nine years.
Liang toured the Navy base in San Diego over the weekend and is expected to visit several other military bases this week, including Camp Lejeune and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina, Fort. Benning in Georgia, and the Southern Command headquarters in Florida.
Panetta said Liang had invited him to visit China in the second half of this year. "I look forward to doing that within the next few months," he said.
Panetta sidestepped a question about China's efforts to penetrate U.S. computer networks.
He acknowledged that both countries were developing capabilities to carry out both offensive and defensive cyber measures.
"Both the United States and China have developed advanced technology with regards to the cyber arena and it's true, as the general pointed out, that we agreed that obviously there are other countries that are hackers. There are others that are involved in some of the attacks that both of our countries receive."