WASHINGTON – President Bush said Tuesday he is "pleased" that North Korea has agreed to return to six-party arms talks, a pledge that offers a glimmer of hope that the nuclear stalemate can be diplomatically resolved.
"There is an agreement to restart the six-party talks concerning North Korea. I am pleased and I want to thank the Chinese for encouraging the meeting that got the agreement to get the six-party stalks restarted. I have always felt like it was important for the United States to be at the tale with other partners when it comes time to addressing this important issue," Bush said from the Oval Office.
Bush said the United States will send teams to the region to ensure the current U.N. resolution on North Korea, passed Oct. 9, remains in force. That resolution was passed in response to North Korea test-firing a nuclear device three weeks ago.
The resolution calls for a ban on the sale of major arms to Pyongyang and inspection of cargo entering and leaving the country. It also calls for the freezing of assets of businesses supplying North Korea's nuclear and ballistic weapons programs, as well as restrictions on sales of luxury goods and travel bans on North Korean officials.
The teams will also go "to make sure that the talks are effective, that we achieve the results we want, which is a North Korea that abandons her nuclear weapons programs and nuclear weapons in a verifiable fashion in return for a better way forward for her people," Bush said.
The Bush administration has been steadfast in pushing for a return to the talks that also include South Korea, Japan, China and Russia. The discussions could resume as early as November or December, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said.
Chinese, U.S. and North Korean envoys met in closed sessions in Beijing to discuss the Communist regime's nuclear program before reaching the surprise diplomatic breakthrough. Hill said the United States and other countries are making clear they don't accept North Korea as a nuclear state.
"We are a long way away from our goal, still. I am very pleased, we are very pleased that the DPRK is committing to return to the talks, to implement the statement. But someone who has been involved in this, I have not broken out the cigars and champagne quite yet, believe me," he said.
To lure North Korea back to the table for talks, the Bush administration agreed to discuss the financial sanctions the U.S. imposed on North Korea a year ago for its alleged complicity in counterfeiting and money laundering to sell weapons of mass destruction. Those sanctions attempted to sever Pyongyang from the international financial system.
North Korea has boycotted the six-party talks since the sanctions were imposed.
One of the more recent sanctions includes the interdiction of North Korean ships. Pyongyang issued a warning of "catastrophic consequences" if South Korea doesn't stop participating in a U.S.-led international effort to stop and search ships possibly carrying weapons of mass destruction and other unspecified cargo.
North Korea did not give specifics of those consequences, but the communist regime's threat is having some effect on Seoul, which is reluctant to take full part in the initiative.
But North Korea did get agreement from Washington to discuss financial sanctions a year ago for Pyongyang's alleged complicity in counterfeiting and money laundering to sell weapons of mass destruction. Those sanctions prompted North Korea to boycott the six-party talks.
Bush had earned scant praise for refusing to speak one-on-one with North Korea, a strategy he said was tried in the 1990s, but failed. After North Korea's announcement, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said he was pleased with the way the president responded to the crisis.
"The president has stated repeatedly his desire to work toward a diplomatic solution to the North Korea crisis, but only in a multilateral setting," Blunt said. "There is still a long way to go before this crisis is fully resolved, but today's announcement is a huge step forward. I am hopeful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle appreciate how effective United States diplomacy has been during this critical stage."
FOX News' Kelly Wright contributed to this report.