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North Korea Fumes Over 'Hostile' US Sanctions in Response to Sony Hack

The Hermit Kingdom maintains it did not stage the studio attack, claims sanctions show America's "inveterate repugnancy and hostility" toward the country.
January 4, 2015, 7:23pm
Photo by Ahn Young-joon/AP

North Korea Sunday blasted the United States' "hostility" and "repugnancy," after Washington slapped new sanctions on the totalitarian nation in response to the now-infamous cyberattack on Sony Pictures.

The reclusive nation also once again denied the US' allegations that it hacked the studio to prevent the release of The Interview, a screwball comedy film about the attempted assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

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An unnamed spokesman for North Korea's Foreign Ministry told the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that the sanctions demonstrated America's "inveterate repugnancy and hostility toward the DPRK," referring to the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

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"The policy persistently pursued by the US to stifle the DPRK, groundlessly stirring up bad blood toward it, would only harden its will and resolution to defend the sovereignty of the country," the spokesman told KCNA, according to the Associated Press.

The US government slapped 10 North Korean officials and three agencies with sanctions Friday in what it said was the first retaliatory step in response to the Sony hack. Although North Korea has consistently denied staging the attack, it called the action a "righteous deed."

There has been increasing speculation among the cyber community and experts that North Korea may not have carried out the cyberattack alone, or at all. Some hackers have pointed out that it's relatively easy and common to use misdirection to make it appear as though an attack originated from another country. Evan Goldberg, the director of The Interview, also speculated in a recent interview that the hack might have been an inside job at Sony.

But US officials maintain that the Hermit Kingdom is responsible for the attack. South Korea Saturday also threw its support behind the new sanctions, saying it was an "appropriate" response.

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North Korea's Foreign Ministry spokesman insisted the sanctions would not detriment the nation's robust military, and would only further inspire the country's "songun" policy, a military-first strategy initiated by Kim's father, Kim Jong-il, during his rule.

Experts have also warned that the financial sanctions will have little effect on the already-isolated nation or on the individuals named.

"It's not as if they travel a lot abroad to Western Europe or the United States," Joel Wit of the US Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University told Reuters. "They don't have billions of dollars in Western banks."

But the US Treasury said Friday the sanctions would further financially isolate North Korea.

"This step reflects the ongoing commitment of the United States to hold North Korea accountable for its destabilizing, destructive and repressive actions, particularly its efforts to undermine US cyber-security and intimidate US businesses and artists exercising their right of freedom of speech," the Treasury said in a statement.

The Treasury statement named three North Korean entities that will be sanctioned: the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea's primary intelligence organization; the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, a primary arms dealer; and the Korea Tangun Trading Corporation, which supports North Korea's defense research and development programs.

The 10 individuals also sanctioned were not necessarily directly linked to the Sony hack, senior US officials told the AP. But any person working for the North Korean regime can now be targeted — especially those involved in defense or spying operations, they said.

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Follow Meredith Hoffman on Twitter: @merhoffman