Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China of "stealing" US intellectual property and data related to COVID-19 research on Thursday.
Pompeo's allegations came a day after the FBI and Department of Homeland Security claimed that organizations dealing with COVID-19 could be attacked by computer hackers related to the Chinese government.
"The US condemns attempts by cyber actors and non-traditional PRC collectors to steal US intellectual property and data related to COVID-19 research," Pompeo said in a statement.
"The United States is asking China to stop this malicious activity," said Pompeo, adding that the "potential theft" of this information jeopardizes the provision of safe, effective, and efficient treatment options.
China said on Thursday the US allegation that Beijing-backed hackers could try to steal COVID-19 related research and vaccines as "defamatory."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said U.S. officials blamed Beijing for fighting the coronavirus pandemic at home.
The US claims have intensified tensions between the two nations, which are in a word war over the development of the corona virus, which has killed over 300,000 people worldwide. Pompeo claimed that China's behavior in cyberspace was an extension of its counterproductive measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pompeo said in the strong statement, while the US and its allies and partners are coordinating a collective, transparent response to save lives: "China continues to silence scientists, journalists, and citizens and spread disinformation, which has exacerbated the dangers of these Health crisis. "
The FBI said it was "investigating the direction and compromise of US organizations conducting COVID 19-related research by China-related cyber actors and non-traditional collectors."
"It has been observed that these actors have attempted to identify and illegally obtain valuable intellectual property (IP) and public health data related to vaccines, treatments and tests from networks and staff associated with COVID-19 related research "said the FBI.
The potential theft of this information jeopardizes the provision of safe, effective, and efficient treatment options.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)