North Korea's defense department asserted Sunday that the U.S. government was "deeply involved" in the making of the Sony Pictures comedy "The Interview" and threatened to "blow up" the White House, the Pentagon and other U.S. targets if Washington launched an assault to retaliate for the cyberattack on the studio.
The FBI last week said North Korea was behind the hacking of the studio, which led to the release of corporate emails and leaks of full-length films, scripts and other sensitive material. The cyberattack prompted the company to cancel release to cinemas of "The Interview," which centers on a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
U.S. authorities said the hacking bore strong similarities to a North Korean attack on South Korean banks and other facilities in 2013.
China on Monday disclosed that Foreign Minister Wang Yi had assured U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone conversation the previous day that Beijing "opposes all forms of cyberattacks and cyber terrorism."
But ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying cautioned against "making any conclusions" about who was responsible for the Sony cyberattack before there has been a full accounting of the facts.
"China will handle it in accordance with relevant international and Chinese laws according to the facts," she told reporters at a Monday briefing in Beijing.
North Korea has reacted angrily to U.S. accusations that it was behind the hacking of Sony, as it has to moves by the United Nations to bring its human rights record before the Security Council for debate today.
The 15-member Security Council is being urged to refer North Korea's human rights record to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, for consideration of prosecution of those responsible for alleged atrocities. That could include charges of crimes against humanity brought against Kim as the ultimately responsible figure, a prospect that has enraged North Koreans.
North Korea has refused to participate in the Monday discussion, and Pyongyang diplomat Kim Song told the Associated Press last week that if the council takes action, "maybe we will take necessary measures." He reportedly gave no details of what retaliatory action was being considered, but North Korea last month threatened to carry out further nuclear tests after the U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee voted to bring Pyongyang's human rights record before the Security Council for discussion.
Referral to the International Criminal Court is unlikely, though, because China, which as a permanent member of the Security Council wields veto power, is expected to defend its communist ally from any action or censure by the sole U.N. body with the power to punish member states.
In its statement Sunday, the North Korean National Defense Commission denied having launched cyberattacks on South Korea and again denied culpability for the Sony hacking, saying it was unaware of the hackers’ place of residence.
But the commission praised the Sony hackers' "righteous deed," saying the film was an incitement to terrorism and adding that the studio got into "serious trouble and paid a due price."
President Obama has said the U.S. would respond to the attack, but has not specified how. North Korea on Sunday warned against that, saying the country had already launched a "counteraction."
"Nothing is more serious miscalculation than guessing that just a single movie production company is the target of this counteraction," North Korea said. "Our target is all the citadels of the U.S. imperialists who earned the bitterest grudge of all Koreans."
"The army and people of [North Korea] are fully ready to stand in confrontation with the U.S. in all war spaces, including cyberwarfare space, to blow up those citadels," the statement added. "Our toughest counteraction will be boldly taken against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland, the cesspool of terrorism, by far surpassing the 'symmetric counteraction' declared by Obama."
The bellicose statement from the government in Pyongyang came a day after the North proposed a "joint investigation" with the U.S. into the source of the cyberattack.