North Korea warned that any U.S. punishment over the hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment would lead to damage “thousands of times greater,” with targets including the White House and Pentagon.

The U.S. takes such threats “very seriously,” though it has “no specific credible threat information that lends credence” to them, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters today in Washington.

Calling on North Korea to “exercise restraint” in its reactions, Harf said the regime should admit its culpability in the cyber-attack “and compensate Sony for the damages that they caused.”

Hackers including the “Guardians of Peace” group that forced Sony to pull a comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong Un “are sharpening bayonets not only in the U.S. mainland but in all other parts of the world,” the Kim-led National Defense Commission said in a statement published yesterday by the official Korean Central News Agency. Even so, North Korea doesn’t know who the Guardians are, the commission said.

“North Korea would never admit it is responsible for the Sony hacking,” Kim Jin Moo, a North Korea researcher at South Korea’s state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul, said by phone. “It can’t afford consequences like being put back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Yet it has to make sure its threat is taken seriously.”

Terror List

President Barack Obama said over the weekend that he would review whether the U.S. should put the North back on the terror list, speaking in an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley. President George W. Bush’s administration took North Korea off the list in 2008 after being on it for 20 years amid efforts to negotiate limits on the regime’s nuclear-weapons program.

The attack on Sony computers exposed Hollywood secrets, destroyed company data and caused the studio to cancel the release of “The Interview,” a satire about two American journalists involved in a CIA plot to kill Kim. Sony has said it’s looking for a new way to release the film after U.S. theater chains refused to show it over threats of violence.

Obama said last week that Sony had “suffered significant damage,” and vowed to respond to North Korea “in a place and time and manner that we choose.”

Internet Outage

North Korea’s Internet has been hit with outages and is offline today, according to a network-monitoring company. The country, which has four official networks connecting it to the Internet -- all of which route through China -- began experiencing intermittent problems yesterday and today went completely black, according to Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research in Hanover, New Hampshire.

North Korea is ready to confront the U.S. in all areas including cyber-warfare, and has already entered “an unprecedented state of ultra-harsh counter-warfare,” its National Defense Commission said yesterday without elaborating on what that means.

The targets of its counteraction will include the White House, the Pentagon and the U.S. mainland, NDC said. “The just struggle to be waged by them across the world will bring achievements thousands of times greater than the hacking attack.”

Such threats have long been commonplace for the North Korean regime, which often uses over-the-top rhetoric in its barrages of propaganda.

‘Boiled Pumpkin’

In the past, the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency has denounced the former president of South Korea as a “rat.” It has called Hillary Clinton a “funny lady” who is “by no means intelligent,” and it compared the U.S. mainland to “a boiled pumpkin” in threatening an attack that would turn it “into a living hell of appalling disasters.”

Government spokesmen have bombarded North Koreans with denunciations of their enemies and paeans to their leaders since the nation’s founding in 1948.

Many of the country’s threats have lacked credibility, and some of its photos have been exposed as crude fakes. The North’s news agency has resorted to doctoring photos at times to exaggerate the regime’s military prowess.

North Korea on Dec. 20 demanded that the U.S. participate in a joint investigation into the Sony case, after rejecting the FBI’s conclusion that it was behind the attack.

Malicious software in the Sony attack revealed links to malware previously used by North Koreans, the FBI said. The tools used also were similar to a cyber-attack in March 2013 against South Korean banks and media organizations.

South Korea says North Korea operates a unit of elite cyber-hackers to disrupt enemy networks in the event of war and steal information from foreign computers. South Korea believes North Korea is behind at least six cyber-attacks it has suffered since 2009. NDC yesterday repeated its denial that it was responsible for those attacks.

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