N. Korea threatens strike after US-S. Korea summit
In South, decisive tone of 'joint vision' is seen as sending a strong message to the North.
President Barack Obama appears to have convinced many South Korean skeptics of the United States' commitment to the defense of South Korea during his White House meeting Tuesday with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak.Skip to next paragraph
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South Korea's defense ministry was quick to respond with obvious relief, characterizing the promise of a continued "nuclear umbrella" in the statement issued by the two presidents as "a warning to North Korea."
North Korea followed up almost at once, vowing in an editorial of "a 100- or 1,000-fold retaliation with merciless military strike" if the US "and its followers infringe upon our republic's sovereignty."
On that note, the summit – and the response – opens a new phase of a confrontation that seems to worsen by the day, at least in terms of rhetoric.
Yet in South Korea, the decisive tone of the summit was well received, signaling a shift away from a more combative tone that left some in the country doubtful about the need for close ties with the US.
"In the past, lack of policy coordination gave North Korea a kind of leverage," he says. The agreement on a "joint vision," he goes on, sends "a strong message to North Korea" that it cannot drive a wedge between the United States and South Korea.
A de facto nuclear state?
For South Koreans, a key question is whether tough words will translate into action – or incidents reminiscent of bloody clashes in the Yellow Sea in June 1999 and June 2002.
Yet another question is whether North Korea now ranks as a de facto nuclear state regardless of US reluctance to give it such recognition.
The affirmation of US nuclear support for South Korea in the event of a showdown with the North "has the risk of being portrayed as an indirect acknowledgement that North Korea has nuclear arms," says Kim Seung-joo, political scientist at Seoul's Sungkyungkwan University. "The more the allies step up their defense language," says Mr. Kim, as quoted by South Korea's Yonhap news agency, "the easier it is for North Korea to support its claim as a nuclear weapons state."