Sony denies caving in as North Korea demands probe

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NORTH Korea claimed yesterday it played no role in the cyber attack on entertainment company Sony and warned of “serious” consequences if Washington rejects an inquiry that it believes would prove Pyongyang’s innocence.

The proposal was seen by analysts as a ploy by the North to try to show that it is sincere, even though it knows the US would never accept its offer of a joint investigation.

Kim Jong Un smiles as he gives field guidance at the Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang Textile Mill. Picture: Reuters

Kim Jong Un smiles as he gives field guidance at the Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang Textile Mill. Picture: Reuters

US officials blame North Korea for the hacking, citing the tools used in the Sony attack and previous hacks linked to the North, and have vowed to respond. The break-in resulted in the disclosure of tens of thousands of confidential Sony emails and business files, and escalated to threats of terror attacks against US cinemas that caused Sony to cancel the Christmas Day release of The Interview, a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Yesterday a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman in Pyongyang proposed the joint investigation with the US. He also said Washington was slandering Pyongyang by spreading unfounded rumours.

“The US should bear in mind that it will face serious consequences in case it rejects our proposal for joint investigation and presses for what it called countermeasures while finding fault with North Korea,” the spokesman said in a statement carried by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency.

“We have a way to prove that we have nothing to do with the case without resorting to torture, as the CIA does,” he said, adding that the US lacks any specific evidence tying North Korea to the hacking.

Sony: Denies 'caving in'. Picture: Getty

Sony: Denies 'caving in'. Picture: Getty

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Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University, called the North’s proposal a “typical” tactic the country had taken in similar disputes with rival countries. In 2010, North Korea proposed a joint investigation after a South Korean-led international team concluded that the North was behind a torpedo attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors. South Korea rejected the North’s offer.

On Friday, US President Barack Obama declared that Sony “made a mistake” in shelving the film and pledged that the US would respond “in a place and manner and time that we choose” to the hacking attack on Sony that led to the film’s withdrawal.

“I wish they had spoken to me first… We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship,” Obama said at a news conference.

Sony said it had no choice but to cancel distribution of the movie because cinema chains were refusing to show it. Yesterday there were suggestions that The Interview could be released on DVD or on the internet.

US options for acting against North Korea are limited. The US already has severe trade sanctions in place, and there is no appetite for military action. Even if investigators could identify and prosecute the individual hackers believed responsible, there is no guarantee that any would ever see a US courtroom. The hacking of North Korean targets by US government experts could encourage further attacks against US targets.

North Korea and the US remain in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. The rivals are also locked in an international standoff over the North’s nuclear and missile programmes and its alleged human rights abuses.

Earlier yesterday, North Korea angrily denounced a move by the United Nations to bring its human rights record before the Security Council and renewed its threat to further bolster its nuclear deterrent.

Pyongyang “vehemently and categorically rejects” the resolution passed by the UN General Assembly that could open the door for its leaders, including Kim Jong-un, to be hauled before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, according to a foreign ministry statement.

The Security Council is due to meet tomorrow to discuss Pyongyang’s human rights situation for the first time. The meeting caps almost a year of international pressure, and even though ally China could use its veto power to block any action against the North, the nonbinding resolution has broad support.

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