China condemns cyber attacks, but does not mention North Korea

BEIJING/WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - China has said it opposes all forms of cyber attacks, but it stopped short of directly condemning the hacking of Sony Pictures, or of responding to US calls for action against North Korea, blamed by Washington for the assault.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi "reaffirmed China's relevant position, emphasising China opposes all forms of cyber attacks and cyber terrorism" in a conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday, the foreign ministry in Beijing said in a statement.

"(China) opposes any country or individual using other countries' domestic facilities to conduct cyber attacks on third-party nations," it said.

China is North Korea's only major ally, and would be central to any US efforts to crack down on the isolated state. But the United States has also accused China of cyber spying in the past and a US official has said the attack on Sony could have used Chinese servers to mask its origin.

US President Barack Obama and his advisers are weighing how to punish North Korea after the FBI concluded on Friday that Pyongyang was responsible for the attack on Sony.

It was the first time the United States had directly accused another country of a cyberattack of such magnitude on American soil and set up the possibility of a new confrontation between Washington and Pyongyang.

North Korea has denied it was to blame and has vowed to hit back against any US retaliation.

"We do not know who or where they (the hackers) are but we can surely say that they are supporters and sympathisers with the DPRK," said a commentary on KCNA, the North's state news agency. DPRK, or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is the official name for the North.

"Our toughest counteraction will be boldly taken against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole US mainland, the cesspool of terrorism, by far surpassing the 'symmetric counteraction' declared by Obama," it said.

Japan, one of Washington's closest allies in Asia, said it strongly condemned the attack on Sony Pictures, but also stopped short of blaming North Korea.

"Japan is maintaining close contact with the United States and supporting their handling of this case," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference.

He did not answer when asked if Japan was convinced North Korea was behind the cyber attack, but repeated that he saw no effect on talks with North Korea over the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang agents decades ago.