China rejects US accusation of attempted vaccine theft

Beijing blamed the US on Thursday of smearing China after Washington alleged Chinese hackers were attempting to steal research on developing a vaccine against the coronavirus, news wires reported. The claims have added fuel to tensions between the global superpowers, which have traded barbs over the origin of the deadly pandemic.

The US authorities said Wednesday that Chinese hackers were trying to obtain coronavirus data on treatments and vaccines, warning the effort involved Chinese government-affiliated groups and others.

The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said China's efforts posed a "significant threat" to the US response to COVID-19.

"China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to such smearing," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing. "Judging from past records, the US has carried out the largest cybertheft operations worldwide," Zhao said. He stressed that Beijing has significant achievements of its own in the fight against the pandemic. China is "also leading the world in COVID-19 vaccine research and treatment", and therefore has more reason to worry about cyber espionage itself, Zhao said.

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