Asian powers have welcomed a deal between the US and North Korea which will usher in a moratorium on the North's nuclear work and pave the way for international nuclear inspectors to enter the country.
China encouraged the United States and North Korea to "make their respective contributions to maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Thursday.
South Korea, meanwhile, tried to draw a link between the deal and close cooperation between Washington and Seoul that had been "done to try to resolve the nuclear standoff."
Japan, for its part, was also positive on the deal, but insisted it would be worthless unless "concrete" action ensued. "Our goal remains unchanged: that all nuclear-related facilities will be stopped, that is, the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," said Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba.
Under the deal, Pyongyang agreed to halt all long-range missile firings and nuclear tests. It also said it would grant access to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to its Yongbyon nuclear complex in order to "verify and monitor" compliance.
In return, the US has agreed to provide North Korea with 240,000 metric tons in food aid, as well as take steps aimed at improving bilateral ties.
"The United States still has profound concerns regarding North Korean behavior across a wide range of areas, but today's announcement reflects important, if limited progress in addressing some of these," a US State Department statement said.
The deal has been confirmed by North Korea's official KCNA news agency, which said Pyongyang agreed to the deal "with a view to maintaining positive atmosphere for the DPRK (North Korea)-US high-level talks."
There were also hopes following the deal of a return to six-party nuclear disarmament talks that have been stalled for some three years. Those discussions - involving the two Koreas, Japan, China, Russia and the US - sought the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The North quit the forum in 2009 and soon after began staging its second round of atomic weapons tests.
The breakthrough comes barely two months after the death of long-time North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and the handover of power to his son, Kim Jong-un.
dfm/acb (AFP, dpa)