The row flared up over Germany’s decision not to ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from participation in the German 5G mobile phone network.
“There is no moral equivalency between China and the United States and anyone suggesting it ignores history,” US Ambassador Richard Grenell said.
Some see Huawei as a security risk.
The US government is urging Western allies to ban Huawei from bidding for 5G contracts, arguing that the firm is too close to the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese intelligence services.
Meanwhile, a new opinion poll suggests a wide gap between the views of Americans and Germans on US-German relations.
Three-quarters of Americans surveyed were positive. But nearly two-thirds of Germans felt relations were bad, the Pew Research Center/Körber-Stiftung poll found.
During a TV debate on Huawei on Sunday, Mr Altmaier recalled the 2013 scandal over US surveillance of Nato allies via the National Security Agency. It emerged that the NSA had even spied on Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“The US also demands from its companies that they pass on certain information needed to fight terrorism,” he said.
His remark was an apparent riposte to US fears that Huawei, a world leader in new-generation mobile…