A deadlock was broken on Monday as North Korea promised to give up its nuclear weapons and programs, but skeptics said the deal hammered out during a week of tense talks in Beijing was long on words and short of action.
South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China — the other players in the six-party talks — in exchange expressed a willingness to provide oil, energy aid and security guarantees.
Washington and Tokyo agreed to normalize ties with the impoverished and diplomatically isolated North, which pledged to rejoin the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), according to Reuters.
"The joint statement is the most important achievement in the two years since the start of six-party talks," Chinese chief negotiator Wu Dawei said. The seven-day session ended with a standing ovation by all delegates.
South Korea's unification minister, Chung Dong-young, went further, saying the agreement would serve as a first step toward dismantling the Cold War confrontation between the two Koreas.
Chief U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill said the proof would be in implementation.
"Whether this agreement helps solve this will depend in large measure on what we do in the days and weeks that follow," he told reporters. "We need to take the momentum of this agreement and work to see that it is implemented.
"We have to see this decision (by North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons) followed up on. We have to see implementation."
The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said he welcomed the deal and hoped it would lead to an early return of U.N. inspectors to North Korea.