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North Korea Denies it Hacked UN Database on Sanctions

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley talks with Chinese deputy ambassador Wu Haitao, Dec. 22, 2017, at United Nations headquarters ahead of a vote on proposed new sanctions against North Korea.

North Korea on Wednesday dismissed as "nonsense'' what it said was a U.S. claim that Pyongyang hacked the database of the United Nations committee that monitors sanctions against the North, saying the Trump administration should instead be working toward peace.

North Korea's U.N. Mission said in a press statement that linking the country to the recent hacking incident is a "stereotyped trick to keep up the atmosphere of sanction and pressure'' against Pyongyang "at all costs.''

The mission said the United States "again picked fault'' with North Korea over the hacking incident at a closed meeting of the sanctions committee on Monday. North Korea is not a committee member and did not participate in the meeting.

It quoted what it described as "U.S. and hostile forces'' as saying "it is North Korea that has the biggest concern in the work of 1718 sanctions committee and owns the hacking capacity.'' It added that the U.S. urged the committee "to thoroughly probe the true state and take steps.''

A spokesperson for the U.S. Mission said that "the quotes and comments attributed to the U.S. delegation are entirely false.'' The spokesperson was not authorized to speak publicly and had no further comment. Two diplomats familiar with Monday's meeting, who also were not authorized to speak publicly, said the United States did not speak about hacking during that session.

The panel of experts monitoring sanctions against North Korea said in its latest report in March that it "continues to be targeted by a sophisticated hacking campaign,'' first noted in 2017. It said Microsoft confirmed that another attack was conducted by a group associated with a "nation-state.''

The panel said "it is of the view that the strategic nature of the phishing, the emails selected for forwarding and the disruptive nature of the campaign amount to sanctions evasion.''

The Security Council has imposed increasingly tough sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program that have severely restricted its exports and imports.

Many diplomats and analysts credit the sanctions with helping promote the thaw in relations between North Korea and South Korea as well as a planned meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The date for the meeting could be announced by week's end.

Sessions of the sanctions committee, which includes all 15 Security Council members and is known as the 1718 committee, are closed. It has imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on 80 individuals and ordered an asset freeze on 75 companies, banks, organizations and other entities.

North Korea reiterated that it has never recognized the Security Council's sanctions resolutions and the 1718 committee, calling both "illegal and unlawful.'' The mission added that it "is not interested in what the sanctions committee does.''

The mission said "the U.S. and hostile forces'' should be making an effort to help detente and the peace process on the Korean Peninsula rather than "manipulating plots with that hacking incident.''