North Korea agreed on Tuesday to take steps toward disarmament by closing its nuclear facilities within 60 days in return for fuel aid and other incentives.
China's top envoy to the six party talks that produced the agreement, Wu Dawei, says the deal requires North Korea to shut down its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, and open the facility to international inspectors.
Pyongyang must also fully declare all the nuclear material it possesses.
In return, North Korea will first receive 50-thousand tons of heavy fuel oil. After it has taken steps to permanently dismantle all of its nuclear facilities, it will receive another 950-thousand tons of fuel.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice welcomed the landmark deal, saying it was a good beginning. But she, like others involved in the talks, stressed that it was not the end of the process.
Pyongyang has pulled out of agreements in the past.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President Bush said the deal is the first practical step toward achieving a non-nuclear peninsula.
Just hours after today's deal was announced, North Korea's state-run news agency called the agreement just a "temporary suspension" of its nuclear facilities.
In September 2005, North Korea promised to begin dismantling its nuclear weapons program. Shortly afterwards, it boycotted the six-party talks for more than a year after Washington imposed financial sanctions on the North's foreign assets.
There was no apparent mention of financial sanctions in the new deal, but the United States' top envoy to the talks, Christopher Hill, told reporters that Washington now intends to resolve that dispute within 30 days.
Pyongyang returned to the negotiating table last December after conducting its first nuclear weapons test in October.
Japanese media report today Tuesday that although Tokyo backs the agreement, it will not donate oil to Pyongyang until it resolves a dispute over North Korea's kidnapping of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and '80s.