WASHINGTON — The United States said Monday it will not back away from an Internet freedom push that has raised hackles in China amid a dispute between Beijing and Web giant Google over cyberattacks.
"We are aware that China has a different position with respect to restricting information," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.
"We think this is inconsistent with the information environment and prerequisites of the 21st century," Crowley told reporters.
"So we will continue to promote the free flow of information, unfettered access to information, the ability to have virtual freedom of association.
"These are all, we believe, fundamental tenets of the environment that we live in, and we will not back away from advocating that this should be something that all countries should promote," Crowley said.
The spokesman also recalled that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a major policy speech on Internet freedom last week in which she talked about "being able to surf the Internet without restrictions."
Beijing lashed out at Clinton's speech last week, saying it was "harmful" to relations, and a Chinese spokesman on Monday denied any state involvement in the cyberattacks which Google said originated in China.
The Internet giant has said that following the cyberattacks on the email accounts of Chinese human rights activists it is no longer willing to censor Web search results in China even it that means it has to leave the country.
A spokesman for China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said Monday that the "accusation that the Chinese government participated in (any) cyberattack, either in an explicit or inexplicit way, is groundless and aims to denigrate China."
"China's policy on Internet safety is transparent and consistent," the spokesman told state news agency Xinhua, saying the country with the world's largest online community was itself the "biggest victim" of hacking.
The White House said last week that President Barack Obama was "troubled" by the Chinese-based cyberattacks on Google and other US companies and was seeking official answers.
The Google row, which erupted almost two weeks ago, has threatened to damage Sino-US ties, which are already dogged by trade and currency issues, US arms sales to Taiwan and climate change.