SEOUL/WASHINGTON - North Korea has said US accusations that it was involved in a cyberattack on Sony Pictures were "groundless slander," and that it wanted a joint investigation into the incident with the United States.
The United States stands by its assertion that North Korea was to blame, a White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesman said on Saturday, in response to the remarks.
US President Barack Obama had blamed North Korea for the devastating cyberattack on Sony, which had led to the Hollywood studio cancelling the imminent release of "The Interview," a comedy on the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
An unnamed spokesman of North Korea's foreign ministry said there would be serious consequences if Washington refused to agree to a joint probe and continued to accuse Pyongyang, according to the North Korean UN mission and its official KCNA news agency.
"We propose to conduct a joint investigation with the US in response to groundless slander being perpetrated by the US by mobilizing public opinion," the North Korean spokesman was cited as saying by KCNA.
"If the US refuses to accept our proposal for a joint investigation and continues to talk about some kind of response by dragging us into the case, it must remember there will be grave consequences," the spokesman said.
NSC spokesman Mark Stroh dismissed this, saying: "We are confident the North Korean government is responsible for this destructive attack. We stand by this conclusion." "The government of North Korea has a long history of denying responsibility for destructive and provocative actions," he added.
Obama said North Korea appeared to have acted alone. Washington began consultations with Japan, China, South Korea, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK seeking their assistance in reining in North Korea.
Japan and South Korea said they would cooperate. China, North Korea's only major ally, has yet to respond, but a Beijing-run newspaper said "The Interview" was not a movie for Hollywood or US society to be proud of.
An Obama administration official said on Saturday: "In our cybersecurity discussions, both China and the United States have expressed the view that conducting destructive attacks in cyberspace is outside the norms of appropriate cyber behaviour."
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott issued a statement on Sunday condemning the attack. "Cyberattacks such as these threaten a strong and prosperous economy and undermine our way of life," he said.
It was the first time the United States had directly accused another country of a cyberattack of such magnitude on American soil and set up a possible new confrontation between longtime foes Washington and Pyongyang.
Obama said he wished that Sony had spoken to him first before yanking the movie, suggesting it could set a bad precedent. "I think they made a mistake," he said.