China is enraged by a blunt report by the Pentagon, accusing the country of cyber-espionage aimed at extracting US military secrets.

The accusation has prompted a war of words between Washington and Beijing, with the latter angrily denying the accusations.

The 83-page report contends that the cyber-intrusions are a key part of Beijing's military strategy as it jostles with Washington for dominance in East Asia, reports The Independent. The computer security firm Mandiant recently identified a single agency in the People's Liberation Army, Unit 61398, as responsible for over 140 such operations since 2006.

Chinese authorities have dismissed the charges levelled in the Pentagon report, who termed them "groundless" and "hype" that would only harm bilateral cooperation and dialogue.

According to the Pentagon, China sees electronic warfare as a way to "reduce or eliminate" US advantage.

China's military expansion has long been rattling nerves in the region. Beijing is embroiled in disputes with Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and other neighbours.

With the Iraq war over and the Afghan conflict soon to join it, President Barack Obamaannounced plans in November 2011 for an American "pivot to Asia" in part to assuage US allies in the region over China's perceived expansionism. The shift is presented by Washington in the context of 'partnership' with Beijing. China however is visibly less than convinced and, thePentagon contends, has made cyber weaponry a centrepiece of its new strategy.

The report stated that evidence can be found in two recent public statements - 'Science of Strategy' and 'Science of Campaigns'. Both are said to identify cyber-spying as "integral to achieving information superiority and countering a stronger foe".