SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea on Saturday blasted United States President Barack Obama as a "monkey" for inciting cinemas to screen a comedy featuring a fictional plot to kill its leader, and threatened "inescapable deadly blows" over the movie.
The isolated dictatorship's powerful National Defence Commission (NDC) accused Mr Obama of taking the lead in encouraging theatres to screen madcap North Korea comedy The Interview on Christmas Day. Sony had initially cancelled its release after major US theatre chains said they would not show it, following threats to movie-goers by hackers. "Obama always goes reckless in words and deeds like a monkey in a tropical forest," a spokesman for the NDC's policy department said in a statement published by the North's official KCNA news agency.
He accused Washington of linking the hacking of Sony to North Korea "without clear evidence" and repeated Pyongyang's condemnation of the film, describing it as "a movie for agitating terrorism produced with high-ranking politicians of the US administration involved".
The NDC also accused the US of "disturbing the Internet operation" of North Korean media outlets.
The NDC spokesman called again for a joint investigation, which has already been rejected by the US, into the Sony hack "in camera", while accusing the US of "beating air after being hit hard by others".
"In actuality, the US, a big country, started disturbing the Internet operation of major media of the DPRK (North Korea), not knowing shame like children playing a tag," he said.
The country suffered Internet blackouts this week, triggering speculation that the US authorities may have launched a cyber-attack in retaliation for the hacking of Sony Pictures - the studio behind The Interview - which Washington says was carried out by Pyongyang.
From Monday night, websites of the North's major state media went dead for hours.
The cause of the outages in North Korea's already limited Internet access has not been confirmed. The US has refused to say whether it was involved in the shutdown.
The North has about a million computers - mainly available at educational and state institutions - but most lack any connection to the world wide web.
All online content and e-mail are strictly censored or monitored with access to the Internet strictly limited to a handful of top party cadres, propaganda officials and foreign expats.
The movie took in a million dollars in its limited-release opening day, showing in around 300, mostly small independent theatres. It was also released online for rental or purchase.
The film, which has been panned by critics, has become an unlikely symbol of free speech thanks to the hacker threats that nearly scuppered its release.