Earlier today, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice announced a breakthrough in the six-party talks to halt North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
Pyongyang has agreed to take the first steps towards nuclear disarmament, promising to shut down its main nuclear reactor in return for fuel aid.
The US and Japan have also pledged to begin talks with North Korea on building closer ties.
Ms Rice said the agreement was "not the end of the story" but was a good start.
"The goal is the complete, verifiable and irreversible de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula," she said. "This is a good beginning to that effort."
The agreement calls for the PDRK to disassemble its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and in return will receive "50,000 metric tons of fuel aid or economic aid of equal value." Almost immediately, US hardliners were critical. While President Bush said he was 'pleased' with the agreement, former acting Ambassador to the UN called the agreement a reward for bad behavior.
What I wondered was how far off North Korea's original demands the agreement had wandered -- turns out, not very far at all. In fact, it might be exactly what they'd asked for in 2002.
BBC, Timeline: N. Korea Nuclear Standoff (emphasis mine):
20 October : North-South Korea talks in Pyongyang are undermined by the North's nuclear programme "admission".
US Secretary of State Colin Powell says further US aid to North Korea is now in doubt.
The North adopts a mercurial stance, at one moment defiantly defending its "right" to weapons development and at the next offering to halt nuclear programmes in return for aid and the signing of a "non-aggression" pact with the US.
It argues that the US has not kept to its side of the Agreed Framework, as the construction of the light water reactors - due to be completed in 2003 - is now years behind schedule.
They got their aid, but did they get a non-aggression pact? Not yet, but Rice hinted it was coming at a press briefing.
US Dept. of State:
In terms of the state sponsors [of terrorism] list, this is an agreement to begin the review that removes countries from the state sponsors list. This is, I think, the right time to do that. We will see what the record shows on North Korea during this period of time, but we think it makes perfectly good sense to start that review and we'll look at the record.
If it is aid and the non-aggression agreement, then you've got to wonder what we just spent about four and a half years doing.