North Korea, in a sign of a thaw, allowed famliies split by the border to visit each other at a North Korean site in September.
A Chinese delegation visited Kim Jong-il this week to press for reengagement on the North's nuclear program. The US, which has said it's open to talks, must deal with a deeply suspicious S. Korean leadership.
The North, which wants one-on-one talks with the US, said it's open to dialogue and had entered the "completion phase" of developing highly enriched uranium.
Laura Ling and Euna Lee said North Korean soldiers dragged them across the Chinese border. The statement also raises questions about whether their guide lured them into a trap.
In South, decisive tone of 'joint vision' is seen as sending a strong message to the North.
For the first time, the rogue state has admitted to having a uranium-enrichment program. It also threatened to respond militarily to any attempts to stop any of its ships suspected of carrying nuclear components.
But the two women sentenced to 12 years in prison still face awful conditions. Their whereabouts since last week remain unknown.
A tougher stance toward Pyongyang may complicate efforts to negotiate the release of the two women, who were sentenced Monday to 12 years of hard labor.
Laura Ling and Euna Lee, nabbed along the Chinese-North Korean border, have become players in a much larger drama.