South Korean President Kim Dae-jung returned home in triumph Thursday after a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il that could mark a historic turning point between the old Cold War foes.
Russia, Japan and the United States also praised the accord as an important step but said more needed to be done to ease tensions between the two nations, still technically at war.
"It's just a first step, but it's clearly a move in the right direction and everyone else in the world should be encouraged by this. This is a good thing," U.S. President Bill Clinton said Wednesday.
Officials said this is a major change in tactics by North Korea's Kim Jong Il, the head of a country that once blew up the South Korean cabinet and just last year was fighting running battles at sea, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.
Other U.S. politicians were more cautious and noted there was no sign a perceived North Korean missile threat was easing. The U.S. has 37,000 troops in South Korea.
In Russia, Alexander Losukov, deputy head of Russia's foreign ministry, welcomed the pact but said it "has a very general character." Fulfilling the agreement "will be very complicated to do. But this is an important first step," he added.
"Russia is prepared to make a strong contribution to the solution of the Korean problem and to aid further inter-Korean dialogue," Losukov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
The foreign ministry earlier said it hoped a forthcoming visit to North Korea by President Vladimir Putin would help further peace between the two nations.
Key Asian neighbors were upbeat, and Japan's leader even drew parallels with the fall of the concrete and barbed wire barricade that split Germany's new capital for almost 30 years.
"As in the case of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the agreement constitutes a major change towards peace," Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said in an election campaign speech.
Describing the pact as "epoch-making," Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono said he hoped the two Koreas would continue their dialogue and ease tensions on the divided peninsula.
Japan and North Korea held full-scale talks in April for the first time in seven years on establishing diplomatic ties. But the negotiations ended without progress.
The Koreas will not be reunited anytime soon, and the North will remain a totalitarian state for the foreseeable future, but Kim Jong Il has clearly decided he had to crack open a window and let some fresh air into his hermit kingdom.
Wednesday's pact capped the second day of a ground-breaking summit in the North Korean capital.
No mention was made of two big concerns: the North's long-standing demand that te United States withdraw its troops from South Korea and Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.
Reunification itself is an enormous task that some observers say could take decades, even if the accord is carried out by both countries.
Details of the agreement were not immediately disclosed, but South Korean officials earlier said the issues involved: social and economic cooperation, including investment by South Korean companies in hard-line communist North Korea; easing tensions on the peninsula, which is divided by the world's most heavily armed border; taking steps to reunify tens of thousands of families living on both sides of the border.
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