US president, Barack Obama, said Sony “made a mistake” by cancelling a film mocking the North Korean regime after the studio suffered a damaging cyber-attack while vowing that the US will respond.
The president’s statement came after the FBI concluded North Korea was behind the devastating hack, apparently because the offensive film, The Interview, starring Seth Rogen, offended its leader Kim Jong-Un.
According to a Sky news report, the US President says he is sympathetic to Sony’s concerns, but wishes the Hollywood studio would have come to him before deciding to pull the movie.
He said the US cannot allow “some dictator” to impose censorship.
When pressed about what action he was prepared to take in response to the cyber-attack, Mr Obama said the US “will respond proportionally at a time and manner that we choose”.
“They caused a lot of damage. And we will respond,” he told reporters during his end-of-year news conference.
Mr Obama also dismissed a report suggesting a possible Chinese link to the hack either through collaboration or through the use of Chinese servers.
In response, China said it does not support illegal cyber action committed within its borders.
In a statement from the country’s foreign ministry passed on to the Reuters news agency, Beijing urged the US to share evidence in the hacking case.
There is “no indication North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country”, the President said.
But Sony has defended its decision to shelve the comedy on Wednesday after the hackers made terrorist threats against US cinemas that planned to show the movie.
The company’s chief executive and chairman, Michael Lynton, told CNN: “We experienced the worst cyber-attack in American history.
“We have not caved, we have not given in, we have persevered and we have not backed down.
“We have always had every desire to have the American public see this movie.”
The FBI earlier said called the cyber-attack, which led to a series of embarrassing leaks, was an unacceptable act of state-sponsored “intimidation”.
The agency said technical analysis of malware used in the attack found links to malware that “North Korean actors” had developed and found a “significant overlap” with “other malicious cyber activity” previously tied to Pyongyang.
North Korea has denied the FBI’s accusations, but said the The Interview mocked the country.
“It defamed the image of our country. It made a mockery of our sovereignty. We reject it,” a North Korean diplomat to the United Nations, Kim Song, told The Associated Press.
“But there is no relation (to the hacking).”
The group claiming responsibility for the attack, who call themselves Guardians of Peace, praised the decision to cancel the film’s release in a statement provided to CNN on Friday.
The hackers also said it would keep Sony’s data secure if the company continued to comply.
Former US Senator Chris Dodd, now the chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), issued a statement calling North Korea’s actions a “despicable, criminal act”.
Several Hollywood stars have slammed Sony for “caving in” to threats.