Seoul: North Korea on Friday blamed South Korea and the United States for cyberattacks that temporarily shut down websites this week at a time of elevated tensions over the North's nuclear ambitions.
    
Experts, however, indicated it could take months to determine what happened and one analyst suggested more likely culprits: hackers in China. Internet access in Pyongyang was intermittent on Wednesday and on Thursday, and Loxley Pacific Co, the broadband Internet provider for North Korea, said it was investigating an online attack that took down Pyongyang servers. A spokesman for the Bangkok-based company said on Friday that it was not clear where the attack originated.
    
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency blamed the shutdown on the United States and South Korea, accusing the allies of expanding an aggressive stance against Pyongyang into cyberspace with "intensive and persistent virus attacks." South Korea denied the allegation and the US military declined to comment.
    
Loxley Pacific, which has provided broadband Internet service in North Korea through a joint venture with the government since 2010, said the Internet was back to normal today. AP journalists in Pyongyang also were able to access the Internet again today after two days of disruptions. Most North Koreans do not have access to the Internet, which remains restricted to a select group.
    
The cyberattack accusation comes amid a torrent of North Korean criticism against the US and South Korea for holding routine joint military drills that Pyongyang considers preparations for an invasion. North Korea also is incensed by UN sanctions punishing Pyongyang for testing a nuclear device that it claims to need as a defence against US aggression.
    
"The US thinks that only it can have nuclear weapons. But we have nuclear weapons for justice, and for the sovereignty of our country," Lt Ri Yong Kwon of the North's Korean People's Army said today at the heavily militarised border dividing the Korean Peninsula. Increasingly, many nations see cyberspace as a new front for warfare. China and the US have accused one another of state-backed cyberspying.
    
Accusations of cyberattacks on the Korean Peninsula are not new, but it is usually South Korea accusing the North of unleashing hackers on its computer networks. Seoul believes Pyongyang was behind at least two cyberattacks on local companies in 2011 and 2012. South Korean security experts questioned North Korea's quick blame of Washington and Seoul because it can take months to trace the source of a cyberattack and hackers can easily disguise their locations.

(Agencies)

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