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US May Return N.Korea to Terrorism List

US President Barack Obama is reviewing his options on North Korea in the wake of its alleged cyber-attack on Sony. He's considering rebranding the reclusive nation as a sponsor of terrorism. The crippling hack against Sony Pictures Entertainment and subsequent threats prompted the studio to cancel the release of a film parodying North Korea's leader. NHK WORLD's Craig Dale followed developments.

Who knows how many people would have actually paid to see "The Interview." But many more want to see it now, given all the controversy it's kicked up. The people at Sony Pictures Entertainment say they want to show the film. Industry insiders think the release could happen online. David Boies, a lawyer for Sony, said the movie will be distributed - as long as Sony's employees and the public are safe.

It's been a tough month for Sony Pictures. Hackers leaked a mountain of information from the studio's computer network. The leak proved humiliating for company executives.

Then the hackers threatened to target theaters that played "The Interview". All of this because they took offense at the comedy's storyline - an assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

The theaters backed out. So Sony canceled its Christmas Day release. Federal investigators who probed the hacking pinned it on North Korea. The authorities in Pyongyang denied any involvement. They even proposed carrying out a joint probe with the Americans.

But President Obama is considering putting North Korea back on a list of state sponsors of terrorism. And he's promising to retaliate.

Obama's Secretary of State John Kerry phoned Wang Yi, the Foreign Minister of China, which is North Korea's main ally. Kerry asked for cooperation, and agreed to share information on the hack.

There is an irony here, given that last year the Americans accused the Chinese military of carrying out cyberattacks on the US.

And while politicians and investigators sort through the case, Sony is taking a lot of heat for shelving "The Interview". Critics including prominent celebrities say the studio surrendered to the hackers. Even President Obama weighed in, saying in his opinion, Sony "made a mistake." Most lamented what the cancellation meant for freedom of expression.

But Michael Lynton, the CEO of Sony Pictures, told CNN his company had not given in. He said it was the movie theaters who determined that the film would not be shown.

Still, the incident has raised fears that Sony has helped set a dangerous precedent. Cybersecurity expert Dmitri Alperovitch says any other nation state, terrorist or criminal group have seen what he calls a "blueprint to launch a successful attack and bend a victim to your will."

Experts say private companies and governments around the world remain vulnerable to this sort of cyberattack. While President Obama has remained calm - he says he doesn't consider what happened to Sony an "act of war" - others in government are reacting more strongly. Republican senator Lindsey Graham has called it an "act of terrorism." And his colleague, Senator John McCain, says it's a "new form of warfare."He says Obama isn't doing enough to strengthen cybersecurity, and is calling for more action from both the administration and Congress.

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