HONOLULU (AP) – The United States is reviewing whether to put North Korea back onto its list of state sponsors of terrorism, President Barack Obama said as the US decides how to respond to the cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment that law enforcement has blamed on the communist nation.
Obama described the hacking case as a “very costly, very expensive” example of cybervandalism, 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,” Obama told CNN’s “State of the Union” in an interview broadcast Sunday. “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.
But adding North Korea back could be difficult. To 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.
North Korea threatened to strike back at the United States if Obama retaliated, the National Defense Commission said in a statement carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency. The statement offered no details of a possible response.