The United States has filed charges against several members of China`s military for allegedly stealing American trade secrets, media reports said Monday.
The Washington Post and other news outlets said the charges against the People`s Liberation Army workers marks the first time that Washington has charged state actors with economic espionage.
The New York Times said the Justice Department would formally announce the charges later Monday.
The charges mark an escalation in the dispute between the world`s two largest economies over hacking, which has become a major irritant in their often complicated relationship.
The United States has accused China of waging a vast cyber-espionage campaign with government support that has stolen the secrets of US companies.
President Barack Obama raised concerns directly with China after a private study concluded that cyber-theft was costing the United States billions of dollars a year.
China has hit back that Washington is hypocritical as it conducts widespread surveillance around the world, as revealed by former government contractor Edward Snowden.