TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan and South Korea condemned a hacking attack on Sony Pictures that the United States has blamed on North Korea and said they would cooperate in international efforts against cyber-crime as asked for by Washington.
The government of China, North Korea’s only major ally, has yet to respond to the U.S. call, but a state-run newspaper denounced Sony’s comedy woven around a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as senseless and arrogant.
The Global Times, a tabloid run by the Chinese Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, wrote in an editorial published on Saturday that any civilized country would oppose hacker attacks or terror threats.
“But a movie like “The Interview”...is nothing to be proud of for Hollywood and U.S. society,” it said in its English-language edition, a publication aimed at a global rather than domestic audience. “The vicious mocking of Kim is only a result of senseless cultural arrogance.”
Sony pulled the movie after hackers broke into its computer network and leaked thousands of documents and unreleased movies on the Internet.
The FBI said North Korea was to blame for the devastating strike. U.S. President Barack Obama said North Korea appeared to have acted alone, but Washington has sought help from Japan, China, South Korea and Russia in combating similar attacks.
In Tokyo, Japan “strongly condemned” the cyber-attack but a foreign ministry spokeswoman added that it was unlikely to have any direct impact on talks with Pyongyang about Japanese citizens abducted by the North’s agents decades ago.
“We continue to demand that North Korea conduct its research (on the abductees) rapidly and demand a quick report to Japan of the results of the investigation,” she said.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan would be closely coordinating with international society, including the United States, on what action to take on cyber-attacks, but added: “At this moment, we refrain from prejudging further steps.”
South Korea, which has blamed the North for a series of cyber-attacks on its banks and broadcasters in 2013, said such assaults could not be tolerated.
“South Korea will continue to share related information related to the cyber-attack against Sony Pictures,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “We will also continue to cooperate internationally to strengthen deterrence and response towards cyber-attacks.”
Experts in Tokyo said the U.S. determination that North Korea was behind the cyber-attack would certainly complicate and could well derail Abe’s hopes of any breakthrough in the talks over the fate of the Japanese abductees.
“It’s extremely delicate for Japan in this situation, given how North Korea is vilified as the enemy,” said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University’s Japan campus. “It’s very difficult to continue dialogue.”
Abe has made finding out answers to the fate of Japanese citizens abducted to help train North Korean spies a signature issue throughout his political career. In July, Japan eased some sanctions on Pyongyang in return for its promise to reopen a probe into the issue.
Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Jack Kim in Seoul; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan