The agreement on reached in Beijing after days of six-nation talks,
requires Pyongyang to shut down its main nuclear reactor and eventually
dismantle its nuclear program in return for fuel aid.
U.S. President George W. Bush in a statement called the deal "the best opportunity " for diplomacy to address North Korea's nuclear programs.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the agreement was not the end of attempts to dismantle the North's nuclear-weapons program.
"The six-party agreement reached in Beijing is an important initial step toward the goals of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and a more stable and secure Northeast Asia," she said. "This breakthrough step was the result of patient, creative and tough diplomacy. This is a multilateral agreement. All of the major players in the region now share a stake in its outcome, as well as a demand for results and accountability."
White House spokesman Tony Snow earlier said that an agreement is an "important first step" toward Pyongyang's denuclearization, but that the threat of international sanctions remained if North Korea reneged on the deal.
But as reaction came in from Washington, AP quoted North Korean state media as saying the agreement required only a temporary suspension of the country's nuclear facilities.
South Korea, the United States, China, Russia, and Japan have held nearly four years of negotiations with the North aimed at persuading it to end its nuclear weapons program.
(compiled from agency reports)