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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.

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Regardless, South Korean officials have been pressing hard for this assurance in writing in view of the North Korean nuclear test of May 25 and signs that North Korea may conduct yet another nuclear test as well as test-fire more missiles potentially capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction.

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The two presidents "went further than I've ever seen," says Scott Snyder, a long-time Korea-watcher at the Asia Foundation. The use of the phrase "nuclear umbrella" in the statement, he says, was particularly "useful" to President Lee amid concerns about just what North Korea means when it says that South Korean cooperation with the US constitutes "an act of war."

L. Gordon Flake, executive director of the Mansfield Foundation in Washington, says the two leaders' meeting exhibited "much more of a dynamic," than in the past. "You have two well-matched pragmatic leaders."

There was little concrete mentioned on a contentious free-trade agreement. Nor was there any mention of the cases of two women, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, arrested by North Korean soldiers on March 17 as they were filming on the Tumen River border between North Korea and China and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

New assertions about US journalists

Hours before the summit, Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency stated that the two journalists, whose whereabouts are unknown since they were sentenced last week, had crossed into North Korea, shooting film in a campaign to "smear" North Korea by reporting on human rights issues.

KCNA made the link between their cases and broader issues, charging that "the American crimes were committed at a time when an unprecedented confrontational phase is building up on the Korean peninsula against the United States."

So saying, the North appears to be building up the two women as more than pawns. They are now becoming symbols of much larger US aggressive aims, value-added in the process of recriminations and eventual negotiations.

Kim Sang-hun, a longtime activist in South Korea on behalf of North Korean defectors, doubts the KCNA report, calling it "an indication of their embarrassment."

The North Koreans, he says, feel compelled to fend off the adverse publicity over the case with their own made-up cover story.

He believes "the women were trapped," perhaps by their Korean-Chinese guide, who escaped along with their cameraman-producer, Mitch Koss.