Obama: US considering re-listing N. Korea as state terrorism sponsor

December 21, 2014

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) — The United States is considering re-listing North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism for its alleged cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, President Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

The U.S. is studying how to punish the North after the FBI officially determined that the communist nation was behind the massive hack on Sony that led ultimately to the to the cancellation of the release of a comedy film about killing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

In an interview with CNN, Obam said the government will review the possibility of putting the North back on the State Department’s list of states sponsoring terrorism. He said the hacking case is a “very costly, very expensive” example of cybervandalism.

“We’re going to review those through a process that’s already in place,” Obama said. “And we don’t make those judgments just based on the news of the day. We look systematically at what’s been done and based on those facts, we’ll make those determinations in the future.”

North Korea was put on the U.S. terrorism sponsor list for the 1987 mid-air bombing of a Korean Airlines flight that killed all 115 people aboard. But the U.S. administration of former President George W. Bush removed Pyongyang from the list in 2008 in exchange for progress in denuclearization talks.

North Korea had been suspected of involvement in last month’s cyber-attack on Sony from the beginning because the communist nation has expressed strong anger at the controversial movie about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The film, “The Interview,” tells the story of two American journalists who land an interview with the North Korean leader in Pyongyang but are then recruited by the CIA to kill him. Pyongyang has condemned the movie as the “most undisguised” sponsoring of terrorism.

Last week, Sony ultimately decided to call off the film’s release, which had been set for Christmas Day, after hackers threatened attacks on theaters showing the movie, and some large theater chains decided to pull the film from their screens.

In his year-end news conference on Friday, Obama vowed to “respond proportionally” to the cyber-attack “in a place and time and manner that we choose,” but he did not elaborate. Obama also said believes Sony’s decision to pull the film was “a mistake.”

In the interview with CNN, Obama said his point was not to suggest that Sony was a bad actor, but make a “broader point that all of us have to adapt to the possibility of cyberattacks, we have to do a lot more to guard against them.”

“If we set a precedent in which a dictator in another country can disrupt through cyber, a company’s distribution chain or its products, and as a consequence we start censoring ourselves, that’s a problem,” Obama said.

North Korea has flatly denied any involvement, though it lauded the cyber-attack as a “righteous deed.”

On Saturday, Pyongyang’s foreign ministry rejected allegations of its involvement as “an “unfounded romor.” It also proposed a joint investigation with the U.S., claiming that it has “a way to prove that we have nothing to do with the case.”

The U.S. rejected the North’s suggestion.

“As the FBI made clear, we are confident the North Korean government is responsible for this destructive attack. We stand by this conclusion,” Mark Stroh, a spokesman of the National Security Council at the White House said in a statement.

“The government of North Korea has a long history of denying responsibility for destructive and provocative actions. If the North Korean government wants to help, they can admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damages this attack caused,” he said.

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