N. Korea blasts US for sanctions over Sony attack

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North Korea Responds to New U.S. Sanctions After Sony Hack

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - 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 Korea's leader.

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 United States 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. President Barack Obama also warned Pyongyang that the United States 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.

American officials portrayed the sanctions as a swift, decisive response to North Korean behavior 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.

The 10 North Koreans singled out for sanctions didn't necessarily have anything to do with the attack on Sony, senior U.S. officials said. Anyone who works for or helps North Korea's government is now fair game, especially North Korea's defense sector and spying operations, they said.

North Korea has expressed fury over "The Interview," an anti-Pyongyang Sony comedy. It has denied hacking Sony, but called the act a "righteous deed."

Sony initially decided to call off the film's release after movie theaters decided not to show the film. After Obama criticized that decision, Sony released the movie in limited theaters and online.

Questions remain about who was behind a nearly 10-hour recent shutdown of North Korean websites. The United States never said whether it was responsible, but North Korea's powerful National Defense Commission blamed the U.S. and hurled racial slurs at Obama, calling him a reckless "monkey in a tropical forest."

Such hateful comments are not new: Pyongyang has similarly attacked other U.S. officials and called South Korea's female president a prostitute.

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N. Korea blasts US for sanctions over Sony attack
Derek Karpel holds his ticket to a screening of "The Interview" at Cinema Village movie theater, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014, in New York. The film's Christmas Day release was canceled by Sony after threats of violence by hackers linked to North Korea, but the release was reinstated in some independent theaters and through a variety of digital platforms. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A computer screen shows Sony Pictures' film, "The Interview" available for rental on YouTube Movies Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014, in Los Angeles. "The Interview" became available for rental on a variety of digital platforms Wednesday afternoon, including Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft's Xbox Video and a separate Sony website, Sony Pictures announced. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
"The Interview," the comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, is listed under an American flag on the marquee of the Cinefamily at Silent Movie Theater in Los Angeles, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014. The film's Christmas Day release was canceled by Sony after threats of violence by hackers linked to North Korea, but the release was reinstated in some independent theaters and through a variety of digital platforms.(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
A police officer keeps watch as moviegoers enter the theater to watch The Interview at West End Cinema in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014. Hundreds of theaters Thursday, from The Edge 8 in Greenville, Alabama, to Michael Moore's Bijou by the Bay in Traverse City, Michigan, made special holiday arrangements for the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Sony Pictures had initially called off the release after major theater chains dropped the movie that was to have opened on as many as 3,000 screens. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
EXCLUSIVE - Director/Producer/Screenwriter Seth Rogen, Randall Park and James Franco seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of "The Interview" on Thursday, Dec 11, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)
A poster for the movie "The Interview" is carried away by a worker after being pulled from a display case at a Carmike Cinemas movie theater, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, in Atlanta. Georgia-based Carmike Cinemas has decided to cancel its planned showings of "The Interview" in the wake of threats against theatergoers by the Sony hackers. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A movie theater worker sweeps rain water under a poster for the movie "The Interview" at the AMC Glendora 12 movie theater, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, in Glendora, Calif. The fallout from the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack that began four weeks ago exploded Tuesday after the shadowy group calling themselves Guardians of Peace escalated their attack beyond corporate espionage and threatened moviegoers with violence reminiscent of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
(L-R) Actors James Franco, Charles Rahi Chun and Seth Rogen arrive for the premiere of the film 'The Interview' at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. The film, starring US actors Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a comedy about a CIA plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un, played by Randall Park. North Korea has vowed 'merciless retaliation' against what it calls a 'wanton act of terror' -- although it has denied involvement in a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Randall Park seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of "The Interview" on Thursday, Dec 11, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014 file photo, a banner for "The Interview" is posted outside Arclight Cinemas in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. Sony Corp.’s miseries with its television and smartphone businesses were bad enough. Now its American movie division, a trophy asset, is facing tens of millions of dollars in losses from leaks by hackers that attacked the company over the movie that spoofs an assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Sony Pictures canceled all release plans for the film at the heart of the attack. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014 file photo, a poster for the movie "The Interview" is taken down by a worker after being pulled from a display case at a Carmike Cinemas movie theater in Atlanta as Georgia-based theater has decided to cancel its planned showings of "The Interview" in the wake of threats against theatergoers by the Sony hackers. Sony Corp.’s miseries with its television and smartphone businesses were bad enough. Now its American movie division, a trophy asset, is facing tens of millions of dollars in losses from leaks by hackers that attacked the company over the movie that spoofs an assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
People walk past a banner for "The Interview"at Arclight Cinemas, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. A U.S. official says North Korea perpetrated the unprecedented act of cyberwarfare against Sony Pictures that exposed tens of thousands of sensitive documents and escalated to threats of terrorist attacks that ultimately drove the studio to cancel all release plans for the film at the heart of the attack, "The Interview." (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
James Franco and Director/Producer/Screenwriter Seth Rogen seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of "The Interview" on Thursday, Dec 11, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)
The entrance of Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California is seen December 16, 2014. 'Guardians of Peace' hackers invoked the 9/11 attacks in their most chilling threat yet against Sony Pictures, warning the Hollywood studio not to release a film which has angered North Korea. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
The entrance of Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California is seen December 16, 2014. 'Guardians of Peace' hackers invoked the 9/11 attacks in their most chilling threat yet against Sony Pictures, warning the Hollywood studio not to release a film which has angered North Korea. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck,right, comments on Sony Studios hackers' threats during a news conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. Hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace made ominous threats Tuesday against movie theaters showing Sony Pictures' film "The Interview" that referred to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Earlier on Tuesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, announced a plan to equip 7,000 Los Angeles police officers with on-body cameras by next summer. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Photo by: KGC-146/STAR MAX/IPx 12/15/14 James Franco and Seth Rogen at ABC Television Studios for an appearance on Good Morning America. (NYC)
FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 file photo, actor James Franco poses for photographers during a photo call to promote the film Child Of God at the 70th edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy. The 71st Venice Film Festival opens Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014, bringing 11 days of high art and Hollywood glamour to the canal-crossed Italian city. This year the festival is honoring James Franco, presenting the prolific American actor-director with the heroically titled "Glory to the Filmmaker Prize." Franco also will also premiere "The Sound and the Fury," his second adaptation of a William Faulkner novel, at an out-of -competition festival screening. It has an impressive cast that includes Seth Rogen, Tim Blake Nelson and Jon Hamm. But the elliptical Faulkner is not easy to adapt and Franco’s screen version of the Southern scribe’s "As I Lay Dying" received a decidedly mixed response from critics. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, file)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Seth Rogen and James Franco talk about their controversial action-comedy 'The Interview,' on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, airing Tuesday, DEC. 16 (7-9am, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 15: James Franco and Seth Rogen take part in a SiriusXM Town Hall with Seth Rogen and James Franco with host Lisa Lampinelli on SiriusXM's Entertainment Weekly Radio channel at the SiriusXM Studios on December 15, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 15: Seth Rogen takes part in a SiriusXM Town Hall with Seth Rogen and James Franco with host Lisa Lampinelli on SiriusXM's Entertainment Weekly Radio channel at the SiriusXM Studios on December 15, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 11: (EDITORS NOTE: This image was processed using digital filters) James Franco and Seth Rogen arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of 'The Interview' held at The Theatre at Ace Hotel Downtown LA on December 11, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Araya Diaz/WireImage)
Movie posters for the premiere of the film 'The Interview' at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. The film, starring US actors Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a comedy about a CIA plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un, played by Randall Park. North Korea has vowed 'merciless retaliation' against what it calls a 'wanton act of terror' -- although it has denied involvement in a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Security is seen outside The Theatre at Ace Hotel before the premiere of the film 'The Interview' in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. The film, starring US actors Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a comedy about a CIA plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un, played by Randall Park. North Korea has vowed 'merciless retaliation' against what it calls a 'wanton act of terror' -- although it has denied involvement in a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Heavy security is seen outside The Theatre at Ace Hotel before the premiere of the film 'The Interview' in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. The film, starring Us actors Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a comedy about a CIA plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un, played by Randall Park. North Korea has vowed 'merciless retaliation' against what it calls a 'wanton act of terror' -- although it has denied involvement in a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
TAIYUAN, CHINA - DECEMBER 18: (CHINA OUT) A woman poses with Kim Jong-un's figure at a shopping mall on December 18, 2014 in Taiyuan, Shanxi province of China. A shopping mall held a public welfare art show of famous stars' wax figures wearing face masks to call on people to protect environment. All visitors to enter the wax figure museum should wear face masks. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
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