Movie-goers wait in line outside the Los Feliz 3 Cinema in Los Angeles, California on December 25, 2014 to purchase tickets for the "The Interview"Movie-goers wait in line outside the Los Feliz 3 Cinema in Los Angeles, California on December 25, 2014 to purchase tickets for the "The Interview" (AFP Photo/Robyn Beck)
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North Korea on Saturday called US President Barack Obama a "monkey" for inciting cinemas to screen a comedy featuring a fictional plot to kill its leader, and blamed Washington for an Internet blackout this week. The isolated dictatorship's powerful National Defence Commission (NDC) threatened "inescapable deadly blows" over the film and accused the US of "disturbing the Internet operation" of North Korean media outlets. The Internet outage triggered speculation that US authorities may have launched a cyber-attack in retaliation for the hacking of Sony Pictures -- the studio behind madcap North Korea comedy "The Interview". Washington has said the attack on Sony was carried out by Pyongyang. The NDC accused Obama of taking the lead in encouraging cinemas to screen "The Interview" on Christmas Day. Sony had initially cancelled its release after major US cinema chains said they would not show it, following threats by hackers aimed at cinemagoers. "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. "If the US persists in American-style arrogant, high-handed and gangster-like arbitrary practices despite (North Korea's) repeated warnings, the US should bear in mind that its failed political affairs will face inescapable deadly blows," the NDC spokesman said. 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". - Unlikely symbol of free speech - The film took in $1 million 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. The low-brow comedy revolving around the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un played to packed cinemas across the US. A file sharing website reported the film had been illegally downloaded more than 750,000 times. Online services for Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox gaming consoles, which had decided to release the film online, went down Thursday, apparently attacked by hackers. Microsoft's online network for its Xbox gaming console was restored to nearly full service Friday but the PlayStation network remained down. The NDC spokesman called again for a joint investigation into the Sony hack, which has already been rejected by the US, while accusing Washington 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. 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 one million computers -- mainly available at educational and state institutions -- but most lack any connection to the world wide web. All online content and email are strictly censored or monitored with access to the Internet strictly limited to a handful of top party cadres, propaganda officials and expatriates. KCNA previously compared Obama to a black "monkey" in a zoo in May, prompting Washington to condemn the comments as "ugly and disrespectful". The North Korean mouthpiece also earlier this year called South Korean President Park Geun-Hye a "prostitute" in thrall to her "pimp" Obama.