SEOUL (NYT) — North Korea on Monday sentenced two American journalists to 12 years of hard labor in a case widely seen as a test of how far the socialist state was willing to take its confrontational stance toward the United States. The Central Court, the highest court of North Korea, held the trial of the two Americans, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, from Thursday to Monday and convicted them of “committing hostilities against the Korean nation and illegal entry,” the North’s official news agency, KCNA, said in a report monitored in Seoul. Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee have been held since they were detained by North Korean soldiers patrolling the border between China and North Korea on March 17. The United States government had demanded that the North forgo the legal proceedings and release the two women. The sentencing came amid rising tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. Earlier Monday, North Korea threatened to retaliate with “extreme” measures if the United Nations punished it for its nuclear test last month, and Washington warned that it might try to put the North back on its list of states that sponsor terrorism. “Our response would be to consider sanctions against us as a declaration of war and answer it with extreme hard-line measures,” the North Korea’s state-run newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said in a commentary. Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee were on a reporting assignment from Current TV, a San Francisco-based media company co-founded by Al Gore, the former vice president, when they were detained by the soldiers. The reporters were working on a report about North Korean refugees. The circumstances surrounding their capture remain unclear. Analysts said they were a pawn in a rapidly deteriorating confrontation between the United States and North Korea — a potential bargaining chip for the Pyongyang and a handicap for Washington in its efforts to pressure the government over its recent missile and nuclear tests. Defying not only its traditional foes — the United States, Japan and South Korea — but also its longtime ideological allies, China and Russia, North Korea launched an intermediate-range rocket on April 5 and conducted an underground nuclear test on May 25.