China media slams ‘spurious’ reports on NK Internet outages

December 24, 2014
North Korean students work at computer terminals inside a computer lab at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea during a tour by Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt. North Korea is literally off the charts regarding Internet freedoms. There essentially aren’t any. But the country is increasingly online. Though it deliberately and meticulously keeps its people isolated and in the dark about the outside world, it knows it must enter the information age to survive in the global economy.(AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)

North Korean students work at computer terminals inside a computer lab at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea during a tour by Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)

BEIJING (Yonhap) — Chinese state media on Wednesday slammed “spurious” media reports that Beijing could be involved in Internet outages in North Korea, as questions persist about who was responsible.

The comments by the Global Times, a newspaper close to China’s ruling Communist Party, came as North Korea’s Internet connections suffered more disruptions after being completely down for hours Monday.

The U.S. has blamed North Korea for launching a cyber attack last month on Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., which eventually decided to release a parody movie about a plot to assassinate the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un. Sony had been under fire for pulling the film, “The Interview,” after hackers threatened attacks on theaters showing the movie.

Although it is all guesswork to know who cut off North Korea’s Internet, the U.S. has asked China, which allows the North’s Internet to link to the outside world through a sole service provider, China Unicom, to help prevent cyber threats from Pyongyang.

“This North Korea-U.S. cyber conflict has also reminded China that it must reinforce its cyber security and act as a constructive role to guard peace across the Internet,” the Chinese state-run newspaper said in an editorial.

“As for the speculation that it was China that cut off North Korea’s Internet connections, these are spurious and do not merit our attention,” it said.

The newspaper also warned both the U.S. and North Korea against launching cyber warfare against each other.

“The current suspected tit-for-tat situation between North Korea and the U.S. raises the risks of a cyber war. Pyongyang has shown its abomination toward Sony Pictures. However, having denied any connections with the attacks, it hailed these actions as justified,” it said.

“Washington has revealed its inclination to retaliate against Pyongyang, which is why many assume the Internet blackout in North Korea was its doing.”

North Korea has a track record of launching cyber attacks on financial institutions and media organizations in South Korea.

China, North Korea’s last-remaining patron, appears to have made a noncommittal response to the U.S. calls, apparently in consideration of its ties with Pyongyang.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said Washington is considering re-listing North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism for the alleged cyber attack on Sony.

“We hope that Washington and Pyongyang will not engage in war in cyberspace. Once they cross the Rubicon, there is no way back,” the Chinese newspaper said.

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