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US reviews N Korea terrorism status

The US is reviewing whether to put North Korea back onto its list of state sponsors of terrorism in the wake of the Sony hacking case, President Barack Obama said.

He made the announcement as the country decides how to respond to the cyber-attack that law enforcement has blamed on the communist nation.

Mr Obama described the hacking case as a "very costly, very expensive" example of cyber-vandalism, but did not call it an act of war.

In trying to fashion a proportionate response, the president said the US would examine the facts to determine whether North Korea should find itself back on the terrorism sponsors list.

"We're going to review those through a process that's already in place," Mr Obama told CNN's State of the Union in an interview to air today. "I'll wait to review what the findings are."

North Korea spent two decades on the list until the Bush administration removed it in 2008 during nuclear negotiations.

Some lawmakers have called for the designation to be restored following the hack that led Sony to cancel the release of a big-budget film that North Korea found offensive.

Only Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba remain on the list, which triggers sanctions that limit US aid, defence exports and certain financial transactions.

Adding North Korea back could be difficult as too meet the criteria, the State Department must determine that a country has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, a definition that traditionally has referred to violent, physical attacks rather than hacking.

Mr Obama also levelled fresh criticism against Sony over its decision to shelve The Interview despite the company's insistence that its hand was forced after cinemas refused to show it.

While professing sympathy for Sony's situation, Mr Obama suggested he might have been able to help address the problem if given the chance.

"You know, had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theatre chains and distributors and asked them what that story was," Mr Obama said.

Sony has disputed that it never reached out, saying it spoke to a senior White House adviser about the situation before Sony announced the decision.

White House officials said Sony did discuss cybersecurity with the federal government but that the White House was never consulted on the decision not to distribute the film.

"Sometimes this is a matter of setting a tone and being very clear that we're not going to be intimidated by some, you know, cyberhackers," Mr Obama said.

"I expect all of us to remember that and operate on that basis going forward."

North Korea has denied hacking the studio and proposed yesterday a joint investigation with the US to determine the true culprit.

The White House rejected the idea and said it was confident North Korea was responsible.


From Belfast Telegraph