Two Chinese military websites were subject to about 144,000 hacking attacks a month last year, almost two-thirds of which came from the US, China‘s defence ministry has said.

Earlier this month a US computer security company said a Chinese military unit was probably behind a series of hacking attacks mostly targeting America, triggering a war of words between Washington and Beijing. China denied the allegations and said it was the victim.

Beijing has now provided some details for the first time of the alleged attacks from the US. “The defence ministry and China military online websites have faced a serious threat from hacking attacks since they were established, and the number of hacks has risen steadily in recent years,” said a ministry spokesman, Geng Yansheng, on Thursday.

“According to the IP addresses, the websites were, in 2012, hacked on average from overseas 144,000 times a month, of which attacks from the US accounted for 62.9%.”

The comments were made at a monthly news conference, which foreign reporters are not allowed to attend, and posted on the ministry’s website.

Geng said he had noted reports that the US planned to expand its cyberwarfare capability but that they were unhelpful to increasing international co-operation towards fighting hacking.

“We hope that the US side can explain and clarify this,” he added.

The building in Shanghai that hosts the Chinese military's Unit 61398 The Unit 61398 building. Photograph: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

The US security company, Mandiant, identified the Shanghai-based Unit 61398 of the Chinese army as the most likely culprits behind the hacking targeting America. Mandiant said it believed the unit had carried out “sustained” attacks on a wide range of industries.

The hacking dispute adds to diplomatic tension between China and the US, already strained by Chinese suspicion about Washington’s motives in Asia and arguments over issues from trade to human rights. (The Guardian).

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