N. Korea says US ‘smear campaign’ over hacking undercuts Trump-Kim joint statement
SEOUL — North Korea slammed the United States for circulating ‘‘preposterous falsehoods’’ and conducting a vicious smear campaign on Friday, after Washington charged an alleged hacker for the North Korean government in connection with a series of major cyberattacks, including the 2014 assault on Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The angry rhetoric against Washington came in stark contrast to the latest sign of warming ties between North and South Korea as they opened a new liaison office near the border.
The North Korean statement, signed by a researcher at a Foreign Ministry institute, said the charges could undermine the implementation of agreements reached between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June.
‘‘The US is totally mistaken if it seeks to gain anything from us through preposterous falsehoods and high-handedness,’’ Han Yong Song at the Foreign Ministry’s Institute for American Studies said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
The Justice Department announced charges last week against Park Jin Hyok, accusing him of hacking on behalf of the North Korea military, and of being involved in an attempt to steal $1 billion from the Bangladesh Bank in 2016, as well as in the spread of the WannaCry 2.0 virus that affected more than 230,000 computers in 150 countries last year.
But the North Korean statement said Park was a ‘‘nonentity,’’ and called the charges ‘‘vicious slander and another smear campaign.’’
‘‘The US should seriously ponder over the negative consequences of circulating falsehoods and inciting antagonism against the DPRK that may affect the implementation of the joint statement adopted at the DPRK-US summit,’’ the statement said, referring to the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Last week, Kim was reported as having told a team of South Korean envoys that he continued to trust Trump. The White House said Monday that Trump had received a letter from Kim requesting another summit meeting, and planning was already in motion to make it happen.
But the war of words over the hacking charges shows the huge gulf of distrust that continues to exist between the governments of both nations.
The Justice Department says North Korea-linked hackers wiped data from thousands of Sony computers in 2014 and stole confidential e-mails, while also targeting AMC theaters, which planned to show a satirical film depicting Kim’s assassination.
The North Korean statement said those incidents ‘‘had nothing to do with us.’’
Nevertheless, the fact that the statement was signed by a researcher rather than a Foreign Ministry official does somewhat lessen its impact.
Meanwhile, relations between North and South Korea continue their dramatic improvement.
On Friday, the Koreas opened a joint liaison office just north of their heavily militarized border, as part of efforts to facilitate better communication, officials said.
The office was launched in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and is the first of its kind since the division of the Korean Peninsula that followed World War II.
It is a potential first step toward the eventual establishment of diplomatic relations between the Koreas, whose 1950-53 war ended in an armistice but not a formal peace treaty.
It comes days ahead of the third summit meeting between the countries’ leaders this year.