North Korea promised on Monday to give up its nuclear weapons and programmes in a landmark agreement aimed at defusing a high-stakes crisis which sceptics said was long on words and short of action.
In exchange, South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China -- the other players in the six-party talks in Beijing -- expressed willingness to provide oil, energy aid and security guarantees.
Washington and Tokyo agreed to normalise ties with the impoverished and diplomatically isolated North, which pledged to rejoin the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
'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 towards dismantling the Cold War confrontation between the two Koreas.
But Lee Dong-bok, Seoul-based senior associate of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the joint statement had failed to bring about any real progress.
'It contains no more than agreements on some principles that help prevent the talks from collapsing and take them to the next round,' he said.
Time will of course tell is this is a real agreement or not. Nonetheless, I think everyone is pleased at any signs of progress.
The North Korean regime is certainly among the worst on the planet, and Kim Jung Il is absolutely crazy, so I don't think we can rest easy. A lot of things still need to be worked out, and even if they are it will require constant vigilance to ensure that North Korea doesn't cheat on the deal again.