Vicky O'Hara Victoria (Vicky) O'Hara is a diplomatic correspondent for NPR. Her coverage of the State Department and foreign policy issues can be heard on the award-winning Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition as well as on NPR's newscasts.
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Who's Driving this Ship?

In the category of "Just when you thought things couldn't get worse..." SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea vowed on Monday to respond with an "annihilating" nuclear strike if its atomic facilities are attacked pre-emptively by the United States. The warning was a stepping up of the North's customary anti-U.S. vitriol, in which it often accuses Washington of plotting an attack. The reclusive North has recently come under heightened scrutiny after reports by the United States and Japan that it has taken steps to prepare for a test of a long-range missile. White House spokesman Tony Snow refused to respond to what he called "a hypothetical situation." Think back to 2001. South Korean President Kim Dae Jung was in Washington for a get-acquainted session with President Bush. Security issues, notably North Korea, were on the agenda. The day before Kim arrived, Secretary of State Powell told reporters that the Bush administration planned to "engage North Korea and to pick up where President Clinton and his administration left off. Some promising elements were left on the table and we'll be examining those elements." One of those elements was a Clinton effort to negotiate a missile agreement with Pyongyang. The next day, when Kim was at the White House, President Bush embarrassed his Secretary of State by making it clear that he had no intention of picking up where Clinton left off. In fact, Mr. Bush said the entire U.S. policy on North Korea was "under review." Move the clock ahead five years and North Korea appears to be readying a long-range missile for launch, presumably a test-launch. Two former Clinton administration officials have written an op-ed in a major U.S. newspaper urging a pre-emptive strike on the North, and the Bush administration acknowledges that under its watch, North Korea is believed to have increased its nuclear arsenal.