Sony Hacking Spells Diplomatic Farce as China Weighs in With Equivocal Position

HONG KONG — The chorus of accusations over the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment this weekend developed into a bout of diplomatic baiting and back-biting.

On Sunday China weighed in with commentary suggesting that Sony deserved its fate. That followed a move on Saturday by North Korea to offer a joint investigation with the U.S. The U.S. in turn said that North Korea would best help by owning up to being the state sponsor of the cyber-vandalism.

“Any civilized world will oppose hacker attacks or terror threats. But a movie like ‘The Interview,’ which makes fun of the leader of an enemy of the U.S., is nothing to be proud of for Hollywood and U.S. society,” said an editorial in the Global Times, a tabloid sister paper to China’s official the People’s Daily.

“No matter how the U.S. society looks at North Korea and Kim Jong-un, Kim is still the leader of the country. The vicious mocking of Kim is only a result of senseless cultural arrogance,” it said.

China is usually considered the last major ally of North Korea, but the denunciation of the Sony film came as a senior Chinese army general was also laying into North Korea over its development of nuclear weapons without consulting China.

“China has cleaned up the D.P.R.K.’s mess too many times. But it doesn’t have to do that in the future,” General Wang Hongguang wrote in the same issue of Global Times. “If an administration isn’t supported by the people, collapse is just a matter of time.”

Whether that means that China will come to the help of the U.S. is unclear. The general’s message can be read as showing that China and the U.S. are both frustrated by North Korea’s maneuvering. But it also shows that China today has less influence over North Korea than it previously did.

The Obama administration is seeking China’s help in stopping North Korea from launching future cyber-attacks, the New York Times reported. “What we are looking for is a blocking action, something that would cripple their efforts to carry out attacks,” an official told the paper.

On Saturday, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman in capital Pyongyang proposed a joint investigation with the U.S., saying the North can prove it is not responsible for the hacking.

“The U.S. should bear in mind that it will face serious consequences in case it rejects our proposal for joint investigation and presses for what it called countermeasures while finding fault with” North Korea, the spokesman said in a statement carried by the Korean-language version of the Korean Central News Agency.

“We have a way to prove that we have nothing to do with the case without resorting to torture, as the CIA does,” he said.

The U.S. government is not buying in to that. “If the North Korean government wants to help, they can admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damages this attack caused,” U.S. National Security spokesman Mark Stroh said on Saturday.

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