After proposing a joint investigation with the US into the cyber-attack, North Korea has threatened ‘counteraction’
North Korea on Sunday warned of strikes against the White House, the Pentagon and the US mainland in response to US suggestions that it might put the country back on its list of nations who sponsor terrorism.
Earlier in the weekend, North Korea had proposed a joint investigation with the US into last month’s computer attack on Sony Pictures, which led to the release of sensitive data. The incident escalated last week into threats on US cinemas that projected Sony’s film “The Interview”, which imagines an assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. In response, leading US cinema groups said they would not screen the film, and Sony pulled its planned 25 December release.
North Korea’s National Defence Commission, led by Kim himself, warned late on Sunday that the country’s army is prepared to take action against the US.
“Our toughest counteraction will be boldly taken against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole US mainland, the cesspool of terrorism, by far surpassing the ‘symmetric counteraction’ declared by Obama,” said the commission in a statement published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
Earlier in the day, Obama had said in an interview with CNN’s State of the Union programme that the US is reviewing whether to re-list North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.
North Korea has remained technically in a state of war with the US and South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. The US stations more than 28,000 troops in South Korea, and has faced off with North Korea in recent years over its nuclear weapons programme and alleged human rights abuses.
Dark Seoul Gang attack
In spring of last year North Korea threatened nuclear attacks on South Korea and the US, and the tensions were accompanied by a cyber-attack on South Korean banks and television stations by a group calling itself Dark Seoul Gang. Security experts said the methods used in that incident were similar to those used to hack Sony.
On Friday, the FBI said its investigation had concluded that the North Korean government was responsible for the Sony hack, without specifying what evidence had led it to this conclusion. On the same day, Obama called the film’s cancellation a “mistake”, and vowed to “respond” to the cyber-attack in a “manner that we choose”.
The North Korean foreign ministry on Saturday proposed a joint investigation that it said would prove it was not involved.
“As the United States is spreading groundless allegations and slandering us, we propose a joint investigation with it into this incident,” the ministry stated. “Without resorting to such tortures as were used by the US CIA, we have means to prove that this incident has nothing to do with us.”
A US national security spokesman responded that “if the North Korean government wants to help, they can admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damages this attack caused”.
A hacking group called “Guardians of Peace” has claimed responsibility for the attack on Sony, as well as the threats against cinemas, but it isn’t clear whether the hackers are officially affiliated with the North Korean government.
Sony has defended its decision to cancel the film, saying in a statement the studio “had no choice” as the majority of US cinemas had chosen not to screen the film. Sony has said it may release the film on another platform, perhaps online.
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