China says it wasn’t inolved in DPRK internet outage

World Today

In this 2012 file photo, North Korean students use computers in a classroom with portraits of the country’s later leaders Kim Il Sung, left, and his son Kim Jong Il hanging on the wall at the Kim Chaek University of Technology in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File)

China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying did not confirm today whether China Unicom is the main service provider in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Internet network, which experienced a total outage for hours yesterday.

When asked at a press conference on Tuesday if she could provide more details about yesterday’s outage, Hua said that she had “no information on that.”

When asked about media reports that China is “likely to be involved” in yesterday’s Internet outage in the DPRK Hua said that such reports were “irresponsible”.

“You mentioned that some media use speculative words such as ‘likely’ in their reports. Reporting based on assumptions instead of factual grounds is irresponsible and unprofessional,” Hua said.

“We hope that media concerned can say more and do more things that will help increase mutual trust of all parties and advance international constructive cooperation on cyber security.”

China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Hua Chunying.

China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Hua Chunying.

Reporters also asked Hua about China’s lack of response to U.S. requests in the recent hack at Sony Pictures. The United States requested China’s help last Thursday, asking it to shut down servers and routers used by the DPRK that run through Chinese networks, senior administration officials told Reuters.

The United States also asked China to identify any DPRK hackers operating in China and, if found, send them back to the DPRK. It wants China to send a strong message to Pyongyang that such acts will not be tolerated, the officials said.

The Chinese spokesperson said China opposed all forms of cyberattacks but there was no proof that the DPRK was responsible for the Sony hacking.

“China holds a clear and consistent position on maintaining cyber security. As I said yesterday, China is against all forms of cyber attacks and cyber terrorism, including cyber attacks launched by any country or individual by using facilities beyond its own national borders against a third country,” Hua said.

“China, based on mutual respect and trust, is willing to develop a constructive cooperation with the international community on safeguarding internet peace and security.”

Hua noted that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also made similar remarks when talking and exchanging views with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry about the issue late Sunday.

“China will tackle the issue on the basis of facts and according to relevant international laws and principles as well as Chinese laws,” Hua said.

The United States has said that it was not involved in the DPRK Internet outage. U.S. President Barack Obama had vowed on Friday to respond to the major cyberattack “in a place and time and manner that we choose.”

U.S.-based Dyn, a company that monitors Internet infrastructure, said the reason for the DPRK outage was not known but could range from technological glitches to a hacking attack. Several U.S. officials close to the investigations of the attack on Sony Pictures tell Reuters the U.S. government had not taken any cyber action against Pyongyang.

Dyn said the DPRK’s Internet links were unstable on Monday and the country later went completely offline. Links were restored at 0146 GMT on Tuesday, and the possibilities for the outage could be attacks by individuals, a hardware failure, or even that it was done by the DPRK itself, experts said.

Matthew Prince, CEO of U.S.-based CloudFlare which protects websites from web-based attacks, said the fact that the DPRK’s Internet was back up “is pretty good evidence that the outage wasn’t caused by a state-sponsored attack, otherwise it’d likely still be down for the count”.

The DPRK is one of the least-connected nations in the world, and the effects of the Internet outage would have been minimal. Very few of its 24 million people have access to the Internet. However, major websites, including those of the KCNA state news agency, the main Rodong Sinmun newspaper and the main external public relations company went down for hours.

“North Korea has significantly less Internet to lose, compared to other countries with similar populations: Yemen (47 networks), Afghanistan (370 networks), or Taiwan (5,030 networks),” Dyn Research said in a report. “And unlike these countries, North Korea maintains dependence on a single international provider, China Unicom.”

The DPRK has forcefully denied it was responsible for hacking into Sony. But the country has for months condemned the “The Interview,” a Sony satirical comedy about a plot to assassinate the DPRK leader. Sony canceled plans to release the movie after a group of hackers made terroristic threats against theaters that planned to show it.

Story compiled with information from CCTV America, Reuters, AP, and Xinhua reports.