WASHINGTON – President Bush said Monday that North Korea's pledge to end its nuclear weapons programs is a positive step, but he expressed some skepticism about whether Pyongyang (search) will live up to its promises.
"They have said — in principle — that they will abandon their weapons programs," Bush said. "And what we have said is, `Great. That's a wonderful step forward.' But now we've got to verify whether that happens."
"The question is, over time will all parties adhere to the agreement," Bush said.
A State Department spokesman, Adam Ereli (search), said the United States would discuss with the North Koreans at the next round of talks in early November whether diplomatic relations would be established.
"It is an issue, obviously," Ereli said.
North Korea (search) agreed to stop building nuclear weapons and to allow international inspections. In exchange, the country will get energy aid, economic cooperation and security assurances.
The deal announced Monday comes after two years of talks between North Korea, the United States and four other nations. Bush said it is "a formula that we all hope works."
"Part of the way forward is for the North Koreans to understand that we're serious about this and that we expect there to be a verifiable process," the president said after a meeting of his Homeland Security Council.
Still, Bush said the agreement was "a step forward in making this world a more secure place."
In New York, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "Our view is that this is a good statement. North Korea has made the decision to get rid of its weapons and all existing nuclear programs ... They've made the commitment to get out of the nuclear business."
McCormack, who accompanied Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) to meetings at the United Nations, said the next step involves intensive consultations among the countries negotiating with North Korea over how to verify Pyongyang's progress and determine a timeline for implementing the agreement.