U.S. sanctions ‘stirring up bad blood’: Pyongyang
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Sunday criticized the United States for slapping sanctions on Pyongyang officials and organizations for a cyberattack on Sony Pictures — the latest fallout from a Hollywood movie depicting the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
An unnamed spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, in rhetoric that closely mirrors past statements, denied any role in the breach of tens of thousands of confidential Sony emails and business files and accused the United States of “groundlessly” stirring up hostility toward Pyongyang. The spokesman said the new sanctions would not weaken the country’s 1.2-million-strong military.
The spokesman told the North’s official media mouthpiece, the Korean Central News Agency, that the sanctions show America’s “inveterate repugnancy and hostility toward the DPRK,” referring to the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“The policy persistently pursued by the U.S. 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 said.
The U.S. on Friday sanctioned 10 North Korean government officials and three organizations, including Pyongyang’s primary intelligence agency and state-run arms dealer, in what the White House described as an opening move in the response toward the Sony cyberattack.
The sanctions might have only a limited effect, as North Korea already is under tough U.S. and international sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs. U.S. President Barack Obama also warned Pyongyang that America was considering whether to put North Korea back on its list of state sponsors of terrorism, which could jeopardize aid to the country on a global scale.
U.S. officials portrayed the sanctions as a swift, decisive response to North Korean behaviour that they said had gone far over the line. Never before has the U.S. imposed sanctions on another nation in direct retaliation for a cyberattack on an American company.
There have been doubts in the cyber community, however, about the extent of North Korea’s involvement. Many experts have said it’s possible that hackers or even Sony insiders could be the culprits, and questioned how the FBI can point the finger so conclusively.
Sen. Robert Menendez, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the sanctions announced Friday were “a good first step,” but didn’t go far enough.