In 2008, the White House took North Korea off its terrorism watch list when Pyongyang agreed to a full verification of its nuclear sites. Until that point, the country's covert attitude had led to suspicion in the West that the sites were being used to develop nuclear weapons.
But now the US is considering reversing that step and putting it back on the list again, following a dispute over North Korea's involvement in the anonymous hacking and leaking of information from Sony Pictures.
The Japanese conglomerate had planned to start showing its new film, The Interview, in cinemas on Christmas Day. But a series of anonymous threats to cinemas resulted in it announcing that it was considering using a “different platform” for showing its controversial film.
The film depicts the fictional killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong-UN – a plot that has sparked outrage in North Korea. Sony Pictures was hacked into by an unknown party and details of the script and private emails were leaked.
On Friday, the FBI confirmed that North Korea had carried out the hack, and US National Security spokesman Mark Stroh said “We are confident the North Korean government is responsible for this destructive attack."
"If the North Korean government wants to help, they can admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damages this attack caused," he continued, in reference to North Korea's offer to conduct a joint investigation into the matter with the US.
Today, US President Barack Obama said in an interview with CNN that a decision on whether to put North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism would be made following a review. He described the attack as an act of “cyber-vandalism” rather than an act of war.
"I'll wait to review what the finding are," he said, adding that the hack had been “very costly” for Sony.