The United States has imposed new financial sanctions on North Korea and several senior government officials in retaliation for a cyber attack on Hollywood studio Sony Pictures.

The additional sanctions target three companies as well as 10 North Korean government officials, including individuals working in Iran, Syria, China, Russia and Namibia, according to the Treasury Department.

US President Barack Obama said he ordered the sanctions because of "the provocative, destabilising, and repressive actions and policies of the Government of North Korea, including its destructive, coercive cyber-related actions during November and December 2014."

The activities "constitute a continuing threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," he added, in a letter to inform congressional leaders of his executive order.

"The order is not targeted at the people of North Korea, but rather is aimed at the Government of North Korea and its activities that threaten the United States and others," Mr Obama added.

Senior administration officials said after the announcement that the entities and individuals were not directly implicated in the devastating hacking, which led Sony to pull screenings of ‘The Interview" after top US movie chains refused to show it owing to security concerns.

North Korea was angered by the comedy, which features a fictional plot to kill the country's leader, Kim Jong-un.

The new measures allow the Treasury Department "to apply sanctions against officials of the Government of North Korea and the Workers' Party of Korea, and persons determined to be owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of" these bodies.

The US has blamed North Korea for a crippling cyber attack on Sony Pictures that saw the release of a trove of embarrassing emails, scripts and other internal communications, including information about salaries and employee health records.

North Korea has repeatedly denied involvement in the hack but has applauded the actions of a shadowy online group which claimed responsibility for the cyber attack, the self-styled ‘Guardians of Peace’.

Mr Obama has said his government takes the hack "very seriously" and had warned the United States would "respond proportionately."