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Government mulls putting North Korea on terrorism sponsor list

Published:Monday | December 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM

HONOLULU (AP):

American President Barack Obama says the United States is reviewing whether to put North Korea back on its list of state sponsors of terrorism as Washington decides how to respond to what he calls an "act of cybervandalism," not one of war, against a movie company.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, which said it cancelled the theatrical release of The Interview after distributors refused to show it, pledged to find a way to get the film out.

"How it's going to be distributed, I don't think anybody knows quite yet," a Sony lawyer said. The comedy involves a plot to assassinate North Korea's leader.

Obama is promising to respond "proportionately" to an attack that law enforcement blames on North Korea.

'Not going to be intimidated'

"We're not going to be intimidated by some cyberhackers," he said.

The president said the US would examine the facts to determine whether North Korea should land 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 yesterday. "I'll wait to review what the findings are."

While raising the possibility of a terrorism designation, Obama also asserted, "I don't think it was an act of war. I think it was an act of cybervandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously."

Immediate scorn

Obama's description drew immediate scorn from two Republicans who are long-time critics of his foreign policy.

"It is a new form of warfare, and we have to counter that form of warfare with a better form of warfare," said Arizona Senator John McCain.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called it "an act of terrorism" and favoured reimposing sanctions and adding North Korea to the terrorism list. The United States needs to "make it so hard on the North Koreans that they don't want to do this in the future".

North Korea spent two decades on the list until the Bush administration removed it in 2008 during nuclear negotiations. Only Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba remain on the list, which triggers sanctions that limit US aid, defence exports and certain financial transactions.